Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Briton flees Turkey over ‘terrorism’ jail term

Former soldier Joe Robinson returned to Britain while on bail awaiting appeal against sentence

Former British soldier Joe Robinson was sentenced to 7 years in jail by a Turkish court, Joe Robinson/Facebook
Former British soldier Joe Robinson was sentenced to 7 years in jail by a Turkish court, Joe Robinson/Facebook

A British former soldier who travelled to Syria to join Kurdish forces fighting ISIS has fled Turkey after a court jailed him for terrorism offences.

Joe Robinson, 25, escaped to Britain while on bail in Turkey pending an appeal against his seven-and-a-half-year sentence imposed in September for membership of the Kurdish YPG.

“I had to take matters in my own hands,” he told the BBC. “I could not accept the sentence and charges as I am not a criminal.”

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Read more:

Turkey jails British ex-soldier fighting with Kurdish YPG for 'terror' links

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His flight had been weeks in the planning, according to Macer Gifford, a former fighter for the Kurdish YPG group, who has been in touch with Mr Robinson’s family.

Mr Robinson, who in 2012 served in Afghanistan with the British army, travelled to Syria in 2015 where he previously claimed to have for just one month inside Syria as a medic treating injured civilians. He said he never took part in YPG operations but posted pictures of himself in camouflage with fighters.

He moved to Iraq where he accepted fought with the Kurdish peshmerga. He was arrested on his return to the UK but has never been charged.

Mr Robinson was arrested in Turkey in July 2017 while on holiday with his fiancée, Mira Rojkan, a Bulgarian woman.

She was given a suspended jail term for sharing pro-Kurdish material on Facebook and had previously left Turkey and had campaigned for Mr Robinson’s freedom.

The YPG is an ally of the US and the UK in the fight against ISIS but is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara because of its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.

Dozens of Britons are believed to have travelled to the region to volunteer for the YPG and several have been arrested after returning to Britain.

Jim Matthews, also a former soldier, became the first person from the UK to face a terrorism charge for fighting against ISIS.

He was charged in February of “attending a place or places in Iraq and Syria where instruction on training was provided” for terrorist purposes. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against him saying there was not a realistic chance of conviction.

Another man, Aidan James, has been charged with three terror offences and remains at Belmarsh top security prison in southeast London awaiting trial.

Updated: December 14, 2018 06:37 PM

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