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Turkey sentences former ISIS-fighting UK Army soldier to 7+ years in jail on ‘terror’ charges

YPG and U.S. Army vehicles in Direk Town, Jan. 2017. (Qasioun News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)
September 19, 2018

A former British Army soldier who battled ISIS has been sentenced to jail in Turkey.

Joe Robinson, 25, was arrested on terrorism charges and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail after fighting ISIS in Syria, The Sun reported Saturday.

In 2015, Robinson reportedly fought alongside Kurdish forces in the People’s Protection Units of Syrian Kurdistan (YPG) against ISIS in Syria. However, Turkey considers the YPG to be a terror organization due to its connection with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The YPG is not designated a terror organization in the U.K.

Turkish authorities arrested Robinson in July 2017 while he was on vacation in the country. He spent four months in jail and was released on bail in November.

His sentencing took place on Friday, and he was forbidden from attending. “There was a trial, but Joe wasn’t at it,” said Robinson’s mother, who has been receiving phone call updates from British officials.

Robinson has admitted that he fought ISIS, but denied fighting along Kurdish forces, instead claiming he was only providing medical assistance.

Robinson’s fiancee’, Mira Rojkan, was arrested at the same time as Robinson. She was charged with terrorist propaganda and given a suspended sentence, although she says she only shared social media posts.

“The court sentenced me for sharing Facebook posts with the Kurdish flag and links to Kurdish songs on YouTube,” said Rojkan, according to BBC News. “The situation is just so sad and ridiculous. It’s beyond me how this can be happening.”

In 2012, Robinson formerly served with UK forces in Afghanistan as a medic. He reportedly became increasingly frustrated by ISIS and the U.K.’s lack of action against the terror group, which prompted him to join the fight in Syria.

In Nov. 2015, he was arrested upon his return to the U.K. on suspicion of terrorism, but the charges were eventually dropped in 2016.

The Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign released a statement on Saturday, which praised Robinson for his efforts against ISIS. “Joe is a hero to all who value peace and freedom against the dark forces of oppression, enslavement, rape and terrorism which ISIS represent,” the statement said.

“We have been following this case very closely and have raised it with the Turkish authorities,” said a spokesperson with the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office. “We stand ready to provide further consular assistance to a British national in Turkey.”

However, Rojkan claims the Foreign Office hasn’t been much help in their case. “They are interested in the case and are following it, but didn’t send any representatives and didn’t help nearly as much as the Bulgarian foreign ministry,” she said.

Robinson plans to appeal the decision.