A Turkish court has sentenced a former British soldier to seven-and-a-half years in jail for alleged links to a Syria Kurdish militia that Ankara considers a “terrorist” group.
Joe Robinson, from Leeds, was arrested in July 2017 while holidaying in Turkey after he posted photos of himself in camouflage and posing next to fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.
A court in the western city of Aydin sentenced the 25-year-old for “membership of a terrorist organization,” Turkey’s private DHA news agency said.
Robinson did not attend the trial for health reasons, DHA said. He is currently on bail and planning an appeal.
His Bulgarian fiancee, arrested along with him, was also sentenced to nearly two years in jail for “terrorist propaganda,” but she is currently in the United Kingdom, DHA said.
Robinson’s mother Sharon Chimejczuk said the U.K. Foreign Office telephoned her on Friday night and confirmed his sentence, the BBC reported. She said his fiancée, Mira Rojkan, who is studying law the University of Leeds, had been given a suspended sentence.
According to U.K. press reports, 25-year-old Robinson is a former soldier who served in Afghanistan in 2012 and went to Syria in 2015 to work in the YPG’s health unit.
Hundreds of foreign fighters from countries including Canada, France, Germany, the U.K. and the United States have fought alongside the predominately Kurdish YPG in northern Syria.
The group is a key component of the U.S.-led Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance which is waging a successful campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
The YPG is considered by the Turkish government to be inextricably linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, but the YPG is not a proscribed organization in the U.K., U.S. or European Union.
On July 31, former British Army soldier James Matthews, who was alleged to have fought alongside the YPG, had terrorism charges against him dropped by U.K. prosecutors.
He was due to face trial in November after being charged with receiving training in Iraq and Syria “for purposes connected to the commission of preparation of terrorism,” but state prosecutors said that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction on “evidential grounds.”
He was believed to be the first person to be prosecuted for terrorism in the United Kingdom for assisting a group already helped by the U.K. government.
Seven British men who volunteered with the YPG were killed in the fight against ISIS, and 26-year-old Anna Campbell was killed on March 15 while fighting with the group’s female component, the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). Campbell was killed by a Turkish missile strike as her unit helped evacuate citizens from the Syrian city of Efrin.
With reporting from AFP