Turkey arrests holidaying Briton over Kurd militia work

A reflection of the Turkish flag is seen reflected off of the Ataturk Cultural Center on June 13, 2017 in Istanbul.
A reflection of the Turkish flag is seen reflected off of the Ataturk Cultural Center on June 13, 2017 in Istanbul.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish authorities have arrested a British citizen while he was holidaying on the country's western coast on charges of working with a Kurdish militia Ankara classified as a terror group, state media said.

The man, named as Joseph A.R., was detained in the Aegean holiday resort town of Didim in Aydin province and then remanded in custody by a court ahead of trial, the state-run Anadolu news agency said late Friday (July 29).

A Bulgarian citizen was detained with him but she was later allowed by the court to go free under judicial control. Her mother was also detained but freed without charge.

Anadolu said Joseph A.R. was arrested after posting pictures on social media allegedly showing himself in camouflage gear taking part in Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) operations in Syria.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

But Washington considers the YPG as the main fighting force on the ground in Syria against the Islamic State group.

The United States is now openly arming the YPG and the group is heavily involved in the US-backed operation to oust ISIS jihadists from their stronghold of Raqa.

The YPG has also attracted the services of foreigners - many with no Kurdish family origin - to fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Several have lost their lives.

According to the Hurriyet daily, the Briton said in his statement to police investigators that he spent three months in Syria providing medical assistance to the YPG.

He said was trained on the use of weapons by the YPG but never took part in any clashes, Hurriyet reported.

The BBC said the man is ex-soldier Joe Robinson, 24, from the northern English city of Leeds and the Bulgarian his fiancee Mira Rojkan.

Robinson had previously described his experiences with the YPG in media interviews, including with the Guardian.

Anadolu said that Turkish police launched the raid to arrest him after receiving a tip-of by email.

"They arrested us on the beach while we were vacationing with my mother," Rojkan told the Guardian in a message.

The British newspaper said Robinson served with British forces in Afghanistan in 2012 and travelled to Syria in 2015 to work as as a combat medic in the YPG.

It said he had been arrested on suspicion of terror offences after arriving back in Britain but the charges were dropped after 10 months.