A British man who fought alongside Kurdish forces against ISIS in Syria despite no military experience has been jailed after a landmark terrorism conviction.
Aidan James, 29, was found guilty of attending a training camp in Iraq with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been banned by the UK.
He was cleared of attending a place of terror training in Syria with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has not been proscribed by UK authorities.
It was the first time someone from the UK had been put on trial for going to Syria to fight against ISIS.
James was for jailed for 12 months for the terror training charge and three years for drugs offences committed before he left for Syria.
He had been rejected by the British Army because of mental health problems and had no military experience when he set out for Syria in August 2017.
The court heard that he went to the Middle East to give meaning to his life by fighting ISIS. James was also in the middle of a “turbulent separation” from his partner and was having problems seeing his child.
“His state of mind during this period of time, as his journal explains, was that he felt his life was worthless and going to Syria was the only thing he felt was open to him, and at least he would feel he was doing something positive with his life for the first time,” said James’s lawyer Andrew Hall.
“His intention was to go off to Syria and fight Isis and he maintained that intention both in his time in Iraq and his time in Syria.”
But Mr Justice Edis told James that he knew the PKK was a proscribed terrorist organisation.
James wrote in his diary in late 2017 that he was increasingly fearful of a Turkish incursion into Kurdish-held Syria. James returned to the UK in February 2018 and has already spent nearly 21 months in custody.
Detective Superintendent Will Chatterton said: “We recognise that this is an unusual case but I hope today’s result sends a strong message that anyone attending a training camp for terrorist purposes is committing an offence, and can expect to be thoroughly investigated and potentially prosecuted.”