A Turkish court on Tuesday placed under arrest a German national who was caught seeking to cross Turkey’s southern border to fight with a Kurdish militia in Syria, state media said. The man, 28, who has spent four years in the German military, was detained earlier in March seeking to cross the Silopi region of the Sirnak province that borders Syria and Iraq, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Digital materials and photographs that he had on him showed that he had been in contact with Syrian Kurdish militia deemed by Turkey to be a terror group, it said.
It said the man had confessed to wanting to join the militia. He has been charged with seeking “to aid and abet a terror group”. Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia a terror group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey and is proscribed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
But the YPG is seen by the United States and other Western powers as a key player in the fight against Islamic State jihadists. Ankara has repeatedly made clear it has a zero tolerance policy towards foreigners who have fought with the YPG or who are seeking to join the group. Two Czech nationals were sentenced last year to six years and three months behind bars in Turkey on charges of fighting for the YPG in Syria.
And former British soldier Joe Robinson, who had previously spent time in Syria with the YPG, was arrested last year while on holiday in Turkey after being recognized. He was later released on bail. Meanwhile, relations between Turkey and Germany remain strained despite the releases of several German nationals detained in crackdown after the failed coup bid including the journalist Deniz Yucel.