Irish citizen son of alleged Isis fighter in legal action over Irish passport renewal

Dublin-born Abdul Malik Bekmirzaev and his mother were deported to Belarus from a refugee camp in Turkey earlier this year


A seven-year-old Irish citizen currently in Belarus has brought a High Court challenge in a bid to have his Irish passport renewed.

The whereabouts of the boy’s father, who allegedly fought for Islamic terror group Isis in Syria, is unknown.

Dublin-born Abdul Malik Bekmirzaev, and his mother, Iryna Paltarzhytskaya, a citizen of Belarus, were deported to the city of Glubokoe in the north of that country from a refugee camp in Turkey earlier this year.

The whereabouts of Abdul’s father, Alexandr Bekmirzaev, who came to Ireland in 1999, is unknown. He became a naturalised Irish citizen in 2010 who departed for Isis-controlled Syria a few months after his son’s birth. The boy and his mother are fearful and want to return to Ireland because of the Belarusian response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is claimed there are no proper or adequate control measures in place there. Last February, Abdul’s mother applied to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to have his Irish passport, which was confiscated by the Turkish authorities, renewed. A decision has yet to be made on that application.

Arising out of that failure, the boy, represented by Michael Lynn SC, Colin Smith Bl and instructed by Wendy Lyon solicitor, has brought judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Mr Lynn told the court on Thursday this was an unusual case, but it had a straightforward legal point at its heart. The boy was entitled to a decision on the application to have the passport renewed. What was complicating matters was that Ms Lyon had been informed by FF TD Niall Collins the passport was being withheld because the Minister for Justice intends to revoke Alexandr Bekmirzaev’s Irish citizenship, counsel said.

This is because the Department of Justice believes a 2001 marriage by Mr Bekmirzaev to a woman called Likeesing Anna or Lekeesing Anastacia Johnson, believed to be a British national, was one of convenience.

Counsel said that marriage was dissolved in early 2010 and in December that year, Abdul’s parents were married in a ceremony in Belarus.

Abdul was born in Dublin in April 2013, and in July or August was granted an Irish passport. The exceptional delay in making the decision to renew his passport has endangered the boy’s health and well-being, counsel said.

Abdul had not been offered consular assistance and is being denied the right to return to Ireland.

Counsel argued it was unlawful at this stage to seek to revoke the father’s citizenship insofar that may have a retrospective effect on the boy’s Irish citizenship.

The boy’s rights and benefits of Irish citizenship are being interfered with and he is severely prejudiced by the ongoing delay, counsel said.

Some months after Abdul’s birth, his father, who had converted to Islam in the 1990s, travelled to Syria, counsel said. While media reports suggested Mr Bekmirzaev had become radicalised and went to Syria to fight for Islamic State, his wife claims he travelled there following a mental breakdown.

In early 2014 Abdul and his mother went to Syria for what was intended to be a short term visit but they remained in a part of that country controlled by Isis for some time.

Following the collapse of Islamic State in late 2018, the family were captured by Kurdish soldiers and were separated, counsel said. The boy was placed in a woman’s prison with his mother and later moved to different camps in Syria and Turkey, counsel said. In January, they were deported to Belarus.

Mr Bekmirzaev’s whereabouts are unknown and his wife fears he may be dead, counsel said.

In his action, the boy seeks orders requiring the Minister for Foreign Affairs to either issue a new Irish passport or make a determination in relation to the application. He claims the Minister’s delay in making a decision is unreasonable and contrary to his right to a decision in a reasonable time. If necessary, he wants an injunction preventing the Minister for Justice taking any further steps to revoke his father’s Irish citizenship, and an order quashing the Minister’s decision that the father’s 2001 marriage was a marriage of convenience.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice David Barniville on Thursday afternoon. The judge said he was satisfied an arguable case had been made out and returned the matter to next week.