Alleged Isis fighter could face 10 years in prison in Ireland

Belarus native, naturalised as an Irish citizen in 2010, held by Kurdish forces in Syria

Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev: He is being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force who say he was fighting for Islamic State

Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev: He is being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force who say he was fighting for Islamic State

 

An Irish citizen being held in Syria, who is alleged to have been fighting for Islamic State, could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years if he is returned to Ireland and convicted of having been an active member of the group while living here.

However, Ireland is not fully in compliance with an European Union directive on terrorism which makes it an offence to travel to a third country to conduct terrorist acts there.

Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev (45) is a native of Belarus who was naturalised as an Irish citizen in 2010 and is believed to have left Ireland to fight for Islamic State, also known as Isis, in 2013.

He is being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), who say he was fighting for Islamic State.

The SDF is holding a number of European citizens who were fighting for Islamic State and whom the SDF would like to send back to their home countries.

Although Islamic State is not a proscribed organisation in the Republic, the State has a strong body of law designed to suppress domestic terrorism and this has more recently been amended so that it applies to international terrorist groups, according to a spokesman for the Department of Justice.

Irish law allows for revoking of naturalised citizenship for a number of reasons

Section 5(2) of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) 2005 Act explicitly provides that the Offences Against the State Acts apply to any terrorist group as if it were an unlawful organisation, the spokesman said.

“By its nature and actions, Isis clearly qualifies as a ‘terrorist group’ involved in ‘terrorist activity’ or ‘terrorist-linked activity’, all as defined in section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 by reference to the EU framework decision on combating terrorism,” the spokesman said.

The 2005 Act added new offences, including recruiting for terrorism and training for terrorism, which carry sentences of up to 10 years in jail.

Ireland is planning to opt into the 2017 EU directive on combating terrorism, many of the provisions of which are in place here already, the spokesman added.

Revoking citizenship

Irish law allows for revoking of naturalised citizenship for a number of reasons including fraud during the application process or a failure to live up to the duty of fidelity and loyalty to the State .

Decisions on the revocation of citizenship of 36 people are currently in the system. A new committee that reviews such matters last month held its first meeting on a potential revocation of one person’s citizenship. The outcome is pending, the spokesman said. The other 35 decisions will be considered this year.

Under the law the Minister for Justice can decide to revoke a person’s citizenship. The person concerned has to be informed and can apply for an inquiry by the committee, which conducts a review and provides a recommendation to the minister, who then makes the final decision.

“The current membership of the committee consists of retired judge Paddy McMahon [who serves as its chairman], former cabinet minister Olivia Mitchell, and Philip O’Leary, solicitor,” the spokesman said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is aware of reports in relation to an Irish citizen being detained in Syria. “Our missions in the region are making inquiries and will provide appropriate assistance,” a spokeswoman said.