YPG fighter. Photo: Delil Suleiman/ AFP

Original article by Hannah Lynch, Rudaw, 04 July 2020

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – British prosecutors on Friday dropped the case against three men accused of terror-related offences stemming from connections with Syrian Kurdish forces.

Mr. Justice Sweeney ordered the court to enter not guilty verdicts for the three men after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) abandoned the case for unknown reasons, in a criminal hearing at court Friday morning, The Guardian reported.

With the ruling, Daniel Burke, 33, was allowed to walk free from prison. A former soldier, he was arrested last December and accused of wanting to travel to Syria. He fought with the Kurdish armed group People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria in 2017 and 2018. 

Paul Newey, 49, was arrested by counter-terrorism police last December and charged with funding terrorism after he lent £150 ($187) to his son Daniel who had joined the YPG fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria in 2017-2018. His younger son Samuel, 19, was also charged. 

Newey told the BBC he does not know why the case was dropped. “What’s changed between when they arrested and charged me, and now?” he asked. “My evidence hasn’t changed, so how have they let it go on for seven months and let it ruin my life?”

The YPG formed the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which fought ISIS alongside British and American troops. Turkey accuses the YPG of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and demanded the US-led global coalition against ISIS end its cooperation with the Kurdish force. 

The coalition continues its cooperation with the SDF today, but defence lawyers for Burke, Newey, and his son speculated Turkish pressure was behind the terror-related charges leveled against their charges, according to The Guardian.

Hundreds of foreign volunteers have gone to northeastern Syria where they joined the fight against ISIS. 

“We applaud this decision, but fighting for a better world should never be criminalized,” Dani Ellis, a civilian volunteer now in Syria, told the Rojava Information Center of Friday’s development. “We will continue to struggle against the criminalization of a region and a people who not only rid the world of ISIS, but are building an alternative system the whole world can learn from.”

“We are struggling with genuine terrorists that wish to kill innocent people. Resources shouldn’t be directed at those putting themselves between ISIS fighters and their victims,” tweeted Macer Gifford, a British citizen who also volunteered with Kurdish forces, fighting ISIS in Raqqa and serving within the SDF.

Two other cases against British volunteers with the YPG have made their way through the court, but without a conviction. The case against Jim Matthew accused of attending terrorist training camps was dropped in 2018. Aidan James was convicted on a charge related to the PKK, but acquitted on two charges related to the YPG.