Front line: Dan Newey with a YPG comrade in 2017. His Kurdish-led military unit was backed by Britain and trained by the SAS
Front line: Dan Newey with a YPG comrade in 2017. His Kurdish-led military unit was backed by Britain and trained by the SAS

Original article by Mark Nicol Defence, The Daily Mail, December 28, 2019

  • Paul Newey is accused of funding terrorism by sending his son Dan £150
  • Dan’s Kurdish-led military unit was backed by Britain and trained by the SAS
  • Eleven anti-terrorism officers burst into Paul’s home after an early morning raidDaniel Burke, 32, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, is due to go on trial in January, charged with terror offences linked to the YPG

The father of a British man who fought against Islamic State in Syria has been arrested by armed police for sending his son £150.

Paul Newey, 49, is accused of funding terrorism, even though his 27-year-old son Dan’s Kurdish-led military unit was backed by Britain and trained by the SAS. After the defeat of ISIS, the Kurdish units have now found themselves in conflict with Turkish forces.

‘ISIS fighters get to come home and settle back down no problem,’ Mr Newey said last night. ‘Yet my son and me are treated like terrorists. The UK has got its priorities all wrong.’

In an exclusive interview, Mr Newey, a mechanical engineer who is recovering from stomach cancer, revealed how:

  • Eleven anti-terrorism officers burst into his home after an early morning raid as he slept;
  • He spent 36 hours in a top-security police station in a cell that is normally used for terrorism suspects;
  • He believes his son ‘risked his life for a noble cause’ fighting with British troops but now fears being locked up if he comes home.

Dan Newey, who had no previous military experience, gave up his job as an insurance salesman in 2017 to join the YPG, a Kurdish-led army based in Syria which, at the time, was leading the international military coalition against the threat of ISIS.

A year later, he returned to Britain and was put on a Home Office watchlist. But two months ago he went back to fight with the YPG for a second time.

Britain’s backing for the organisation – and the efforts of its UK volunteers – helped to bring down ISIS’s murderous caliphate. 

However, a recent chain of international political events means that Dan and other British YPG volunteers are now fighting not against ISIS but against Turkey which remains an ally of the UK and a member of the Nato defence alliance.

Speaking of his arrest at his flat in Solihull, West Midlands, earlier this month, Mr Newey, who requires constant medication, said: ‘I was asleep when I heard this frantic banging on the front door and non-stop buzzing on the intercom.

Paul Newey, 49, is accused of funding terrorism for sending his son £150 and was arrested at his flat in Solihull
Paul Newey, 49, is accused of funding terrorism for sending his son £150 and was arrested at his flat in Solihull

‘Then they came in mob-handed, seven armed officers and a four-man search team.

‘Naturally I wondered what the hell was going on. They said they were nicking me for supporting terrorism, which was news to me.

‘I knew Dan was in the YPG, which isn’t a terrorist group.’

Although the YPG is not a prescribed organisation in Britain, Another Kurdish group, the PKK, is designated as a terrorist group in the UK. Mr Newey claimed his son had nothing to do with it.

‘I told the police that my son fought on the same side as British troops against ISIS. And I told them I’d sent him money, because I’ve got nothing to hide.

‘It isn’t Dan’s fault or mine that Turkey is now illegally occupying areas of northern Syria where Kurdish communities have lived for generations,’ he added.

‘Dan’s just there protecting fellow YPG volunteers and innocent civilians from ethnic cleansing.’

The Turkish invasion of northern Syria in October followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw his troops from the war zone. 

During the controversial offensive, codenamed Operation Peace Spring, Turkey captured almost 2,000 square miles of Kurdish territory in northern Syria, even though the militarily weaker YPG forces did their best to thwart their progress.

Dan’s brother Sam Newey, 18, and cousin Joe Newey, 19, a politics student, have also been contacted by police about their online communications with the YPG volunteer. Sam’s phone was confiscated during the raid on his father’s flat and he was questioned for 13 hours.

The Turkish invasion of northern Syria in October followed US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw his troops from the war zone
The Turkish invasion of northern Syria in October followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw his troops from the war zone

Responding to his father’s treatment and the approaches by police to other members of his family, Dan Newey said by mobile phone: ‘My actions in the YPG are mine alone but because they can’t get me over here, they’re going after my family.

‘It is a really dangerous precedent. This is the first attempted prosecution of the family of a YPG volunteer and I fear it won’t be the last.’

After police searched Dan’s father Paul’s flat, they drove him to Coventry where he was held for 36 hours and questioned about money he wired to Dan while he was in Spain en route to Syria.

Mr Newey said: ‘I was in a cell which they usually use to hold terror suspects so it’s really tight security, cameras everywhere, and they check on you every 20 minutes just to see you’re not hiding behind the door.

‘So you can forget about getting any sleep. That’s not going to happen. And I needed to see a doctor every few hours because of my condition, so it was really unpleasant. I’ve had my oesophagus removed and I still need daily medication.’

He added: ‘They found some messages on my phone and hauled me out for questioning.

‘Dan had described how his YPG unit had ambushed Turkish troops who were laying mines near a village in northern Syria. Dan had said how they’d shot dead two enemy soldiers, Turks, and taken their pistols as souvenirs. The police said to me that these messages proved Dan has been involved in terrorism, but he wasn’t.

‘He belongs to the YPG which isn’t a terrorist unit, and he’s in Syria not Turkey.

‘He’s been defending Kurdish and Syrian communities against the Turks who have invaded, and that’s what I said when the police interviewed me.’

Asked how he felt when his son told him that he had shot the soldiers, Mr Newey conceded: ‘It was pretty shocking. I’m not celebrating their deaths and neither is Dan.

‘I don’t have any rein over a 27-year-old lad and the situations he finds himself in.

‘He knows he could die out there, but on this occasion, as it was described in the messages, he was protecting civilians who could have been blown up by those mines which the Turkish troops were preparing.’

Mr Newey is due to return to the same police station on January 8 when he will learn whether he will be charged with funding terrorism.

His ordeal came a week after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Nato summit in London and demanded the UK withdrew its support for the YPG.

The evidence against Mr Newey centres on two payments of £100 and £50 made to his son in early November.

He said: ‘Dan always used to say to me that he was going back. It was a bit of a joke between us. He used to say it every day but he never went anywhere, just to work and back and to see his girlfriend.

‘So I never thought he would actually go back.

‘But when the US pulled out and the Turks rolled into northern Syria he started getting phone calls from his YPG mates describing what was happening. He felt he had to go back to help them.

‘So without telling me he just left one Sunday morning. I think he drove from the UK to Spain. When he was there, he rang me saying his last week’s wages hadn’t been paid so could I lend him money. So I did. He was in Barcelona at the time.

‘The second payment reached him when he was in Doha, apparently, that’s what the police told me,’ he went on.

‘The police must have been monitoring his bank account because it was frozen shortly afterwards.

‘Dan is afraid to come home because he fears he’ll be locked up. He should be treated like a hero. He worked with the SAS handling ISIS prisoners out in Syria and has seen a lot of frontline action against the jihadis.

‘He’s risked his life for a noble cause which the world supported. But suddenly everything has changed. He’s lauded one minute and vilified the next, all because of Turkey’s say so.

‘And now they’re going after the families?

‘The UK has got its priorities all wrong. This wouldn’t happen in the US. There, the American YPG volunteers are heralded when they come home.’

Eight Britons have died fighting for the YPG, including Anna Campbell, 26, who was killed by an air strike in March 2018 while trying to evacuate civilians from the besieged Syrian city of Afrin. Educated at the £10,000-a-year St Mary’s Hall girls’ school in Brighton, her father is a composer and late mother was an anti-war activist.

Funding terrorism carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but shorter sentenced have been handed down for small sums of money transferred from family members to relatives in Syria.

In a statement, West Midlands Police said: ‘A 49-year-old man, who was arrested on December 11 in Solihull on suspicion of funding/supporting terrorism, has been bailed pending further enquiries.’ 

Britons who joined the war against barbarism

Dozens of British nationals, including former public schoolboys and ex-soldiers, flocked to join the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria after ISIS declared its so-called caliphate in 2014.

Seven men and one woman from the UK died in the fighting – some of it alongside British Special Forces – that helped to crush the terrorist group responsible for massacres and barbarism.

The YPG is not a proscribed organisation in the British government’s list of banned terrorist groups, yet many of those who returned to the UK have been arrested over alleged terrorism offences.

Charges have been rare but earlier this year Aidan James, 29, from Formby, Merseyside, was jailed for four years for fighting alongside the YPG. Daniel Burke, 32, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, is due to go on trial in January, charged with terror offences linked to the YPG.

Daniel Burke, 32, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, is due to go on trial in January, charged with terror offences linked to the YPG
Daniel Burke, 32, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, is due to go on trial in January, charged with terror offences linked to the YPG

To defeat ISIS, Britain and America formed a military alliance with the YPG whose fighters, operating under the name of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), fought many of the bloodiest battles. In particular, the SDF had Western aerial firepower and the support of Special Forces expertise.

However, the YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group fighting to create a separate homeland in south-eastern Turkey. It is banned as a terrorist group by the UK.

Turkey has designated both the PKK and the YPG as terrorist groups and has been heaping pressure on its Nato allies to ban the YPG.

At a Nato summit in London earlier this month, Turkey’s hardline president, Tayyep Erdogan, threatened to block Nato’s proposal to bolster its Baltic defence if members failed to do so.

When US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US Special Forces from Syria in October, Turkey launched a massive military raid against the YPG along the Syrian border.

It said that it wanted to create a buffer zone, but was accused of bombing civilians and of committing human rights violations