Ankara, Turkey—A British national faces jail time in a Turkish prison because he fought with the Kurdish Peshmerga against ISIS.
Last year, Joe Robinson was arrested while enjoying a respite in a Turkish beach resort. At the time, the Turkish authorities used his association with the YPG, a Kurdish militant group that fights ISIS in Syria and is supported by the U.S-led international coalition, to brand him as a member of a terrorist organisation.
Robinson spent four months incarcerated in a Turkish prison. Following repeated protests, he was released on bail but prevented from leaving Turkey. But now a Turkish court has reopened the case and sentenced him to seven-and-a-half years in prison.
The Turkish government views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist organisation that has been fighting an insurgency for Kurdish autonomy for decades.
Robinson, of course, plans to appeal the conviction based on the fact that the YPG isn’t considered a terrorist organisation in the UK.
“I am under the impression that the government can ask for him to be extradited to serve his sentence here. That would be a massive relief, especially as he was found to have committed no crime by the UK law,” said Sharon Robinson, the former soldier’s mother.
In his defence, Robinson has stated that he was in Syria for only a month providing medical assistance to civilians and refugees. He then went to Iraq, where he participated in combat operations against ISIS.
His fiancée, Mira Rojkan, who is a Bulgarian citizen, was also arrested last year. She was charged with dissemination of terrorist propaganda over pro-Kurdistan messages she posted and shared on social media. She was given a suspended prison sentence. The Bulgarian government, however, intervened and that enabled her to return to Europe.
“The UK should stop saying they can’t do it, we know they can. We’re talking about a veteran,” said Rojkan.
She also urged the new Foreign minister, Mr Jeremy Hunt, “to get in touch with the Turkish authorities on a diplomatic level.”
A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said officials are ready to provide Robinson with further assistance, stating: “We have been following this case very closely and have raised it with the Turkish authorities.” She added that the diplomatic service is ready to assist Robinson.
Whilst in the British army, Robinson was deployed to Afghanistan as a medic.
Eight British nationals have died in service of the Kurdish cause.