Turkish court sentences British citizen to 7 years for fighting with Kurds against ISIL

Joseph Robinson (right) with other foreign fighters in Tal Abyad, Syria. Photograph: Facebook

A Turkish court has reportedly sentenced to prison a British citizen who joined Kurdish forces battling radical Islamist terror organization the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

According to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg for Kurdistan 24, the mother of British citizen Joseph Andrew Robinson, who joined Kurdish forces battling ISIL, said on Saturday that her son has been sentenced by a Turkish court to seven-and-a-half years in prison. Sharon Robinson confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that she got a phone call from the UK Foreign Office about the sentence.

The call, she said, was “asking if I had heard from him, then told me that. Then, I heard from Joe, saying that he was going to appeal.”

It was briefly reported in the Turkish media outlet Daily Sabah, which said, “A court in western Turkey handed down a seven-year sentence to Joseph Andrew Robinson for being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK].”

Robinson told British MP Graham Jones on Twitter that she “will do whatever it takes to get him home.” Later, she told Kurdistan 24: “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 UK law.”

Detained in July 2017 while on vacation in Turkey’s Aegean province of Aydın, Robinson, a former British soldier, was accused of allegedly having engaged in “terrorist” activity for fighting with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as part of the PKK.

His Bulgarian girlfriend Mira Yashar Abdülselamoğlu was also arrested at the same time and charged with terrorist propaganda. Her mother was initially detained but then released after interrogation. He joined Kurdish forces in 2015 while the group was battling ISIL in Iraq and Syria. “I received arms training from the YPG for three months but never engaged in combat,” Robinson told police at the time.

Pictures of Robinson and Abdülselamoğlu posted on their social media accounts showing them in Kurdish military clothes were used as evidence for “membership in a terror group.”

Hundreds of Westerners and other foreigners have joined Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG forces battling ISIL in Iraq and Syria since 2014. Scores of them, including Americans, British, Germans, and Australians, have died in combat against ISIL. Some were also killed by Turkish air strikes in Syria in the Kurdish town of Afrin in 2018 and near Manbij in 2016. Turkish authorities have previously detained several other volunteers who teamed up with the Kurdish forces.

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