The hearing of C2 v Secretary of State for the Home Department (‘SSHD’) concluded today, following four days of evidence and submissions before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (‘SIAC’), including ‘closed’ evidence never disclosed to C2.
C2, client of Bindmans LLP, was deprived of his citizenship in 2019 on the basis that the SSHD alleged he had been an agent of the Russian military intelligence services (‘the GRU’). C2 appealed to SIAC, on the basis that he is not and has never been an agent of the GRU. C2’s identity has been anonymised in these proceedings.
C2 is an Afghan national, born in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Having fled Afghanistan after the Taliban took power in 1992 and studied in Russia for some years, he then arrived in the UK where he was granted exceptional leave to remain. He worked as an interpreter, for various government agencies including the Home Office and MI6. He was later recruited to work for GCHQ. In order to perform these sensitive roles, C2 successfully passed multiple security vetting procedures and was granted access to highly confidential, including top secret, information.
C2 was granted British citizenship and went on to work as a Country Advisor for the FCDO alongside other UK government departments and the Coalition forces in Afghanistan in the war against the Taliban. The work he undertook was of great importance and sensitivity to the UK and was undertaken at significant personal risk. In 2011, he left the UK government to work in Afghanistan for the Afghan government and later for a private company in the fuel industry.
In 2019, eight years after he had stopped working for the British government, C2 was deprived of his British citizenship on the basis of the allegation that he was a GRU agent. He appealed against that decision.
Following the fall of Kabul in 2021, C2 was evacuated to the UK by the British government, from where he has continued to pursue his appeal.
Given the national security sensitivities, C2’s appeal has been heard in two parallel proceedings: public proceedings (known as ‘OPEN’) and those taking place in secret (known as ‘CLOSED’). C2 and his OPEN legal representatives are not allowed to see any of the CLOSED evidence against him. C2 is represented separately in the CLOSED proceedings by Special Advocates, who are allowed to see the CLOSED material against him but are not allowed to discuss this material or his case more generally with him or his OPEN legal team.
The only OPEN allegation against C2 is the bare assertion that he was ‘assessed’ to have been a GRU agent. No evidence has been provided in OPEN to support the details of this allegation or explain what C2 is actually alleged to have done. The effect of this is that C2 has been left almost completely in the dark about the basis for the Government’s assessment that he has been a GRU agent.
Given the lack of OPEN evidence against him, C2 has provided a full and detailed account of his life, his career, and any engagement or connections he has had with Russia. He contends that the SSHD must have misinterpreted his wholly innocent engagement with Russian officials in his previous work for the Afghan government and for an oil company, which inevitably brought him into contact with such officials: Russia was a key supplier of fuel to Afghanistan and the Coalition forces. He provided this full explanation of his life in an attempt to address whatever the allegations made against him in CLOSED are. C2 has also given extensive oral evidence at the appeal hearing, responding to all questions put to him by the SSHD and SIAC.
Counsel for C2 emphasised that the SSHD’s allegation that C2 has been a GRU agent does not make sense when considered against his career history. He left his role in the UK government, where he had access to sensitive information to work in Afghan government and then for the private sector, as a fuel trader. In that role he had no access to secret material, and so would have been of far less interest to any intelligence service.
SIAC has reserved its judgment, to be handed down at a future date.
Shirin Marker, C2’s solicitor, comments:
C2’s appeal is a stark reminder of the ‘inherent unfairness’ of secret deprivation of citizenship proceedings. He has been forced to pursue his appeal completely in the dark as to the evidence against him and the details of what he is actually said to have done. He has attempted to mitigate this by providing a full and transparent account of his life, career and networks. C2 provided coherent explanations to all questions posed to him during his oral evidence.
C2 is represented in OPEN by Shirin Marker, Amy O’Shea and Lily Seaborne of Bindmans LLP, and Robert Palmer KC, Nikolaus Grubeck and Julianne Morrison of Monckton Chambers. In CLOSED, C2 is represented by Special Advocates Zubair Ahmad KC of 2 Hare Court and Rachel Toney of 36 Group.