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British man on trial for ‘fighting ISIS with banned Kurdish group’

British man, 28, ‘went to Syria to fight ISIS with banned Kurdish group after authorities gave him back his passport’

  • Aidan James, from Merseyside, joined Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS
  • Prosecutors say he joined banned group and so should be treated as terrorist
  • The 28-year-old denies two charges of attending terrorist training camps

A British man who travelled to Syria to fight against ISIS with banned Kurdish group after UK authorities gave him back his passport, a court has heard.

Aidan James, 28, is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of joining a proscribed group called the PKK or the Kurdish Worker’s Party, which was made illegal in 2001.

The Old Bailey heard he left the UK for the Middle East in August 2017 to fight with Kurdish forces opposing the extremist caliphate which had then taken hold of much of Syria and Iraq.

According to prosecutors, he left the UK with the specific purpose of ‘taking part in the violence’ and should therefore be treated as a terrorist who helped ‘fuel the conflict’.

Aidan James is on trial for fighting against ISIS with a banned Kurdish group

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told the jury: ‘The prosecution case against this defendant is that, as a citizen and resident of this country, who did not know and had never been to Iraq or Syria before, and who had no prior military knowledge or experience whatever, and no official sanction at all, he went there for four months to fight.

‘He picked one particular cause in foreign conflict and he joined in.

‘He had picked his cause and it was the cause of just one of the many groups of people that inhabit that part of the world and would like it to be their own – the Kurdish people, or at least that part of them that is represented by the organised militia that he went to fight with.

‘The prosecution case against him is that he went as an individual to Syria to fight with guns and explosives. In doing so, he set out to advance a political and ideological cause.

‘In particular, as to the two charges he faces, his attendance at two places of training amounts, in each instance, to a criminal offence, because the law does not permit attendance at terrorist training places, anywhere in the world.’

Jurors were told James travelled to a safe house in Makhmour, Iraq and lived there between the end of August and the start of October 2017.

Mr Heywood argued that, while there, he received training with weapons by the PKK, before moving on to Syria until November 4 2017, where he was further trained by the YPG and went to fight in battles in Syria.

Police and Prevent officers became aware of Aidan’s views following a series of Facebook posts, jurors heard.

In one on 19 April 2019 he wrote: ‘The road to Rojava starts here, few weeks from now will be in Syria fighting side by side with brothers in arms against the sick regime and ideologies of the so called daesh and other Islamic extremist.

‘I don’t care for people’s opinions this is what I want to do and need to do’.

The officers warned him not to travel for his own safety and offered him help, but suspected their warnings had not worked.

On 28 April he was arrested and interviewed by the police while his mother’s house was searched.

A journal and his passport were found and retained for a while by investigators, but they announced he would be not investigated further.

James gave the impression he was intent on travelling, and on 17 July 2017 his passport along with his journal were returned, the court heard. The following month he was in the Middle East.

James, of Formby, Merseyside, denies two charges of attending terrorist training camps. The trial continues.