British former soldier jailed on terrorism charges in Turkey flees bail to return home

A former British soldier jailed in Turkey for fighting Islamic State has fled his captors and arrived home in the UK, prompting fears of a diplomatic crisis.

Joe Robinson, 25, has been reunited with his fiancee after fleeing Turkey while on bail. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail for fighting alongside Kurdish armed groups in Syria in 2015, including the banned terrorist organisation the YPG.

Turkey will consider its formal response but could seek Robinson’s extradition. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led a crackdown on the Kurds and will be angered if the UK is seen not to be taking an interest in Robinson’s return.

Mr Robinson’s fiancee Mira Rojkan told the Telegraph of her joy at her partner’s return and said she hoped they could now marry. “He’s out and we’re delighted. He’s home and he’s fine and safe,” said Miss Rojkan, 23, a law student from their home in Accrington in Lancashire.

Asked if he left Turkey legally, she refused to comment, but added: “He’s a soldier and he knows what he’s doing, but I can’t discuss it. Now we just want to be left alone. Hopefully we can now get married.”

Joe Robinson and Bulgarian fiancee Mira Rojkan were arrested by Turkish holidays while on holidayCredit:
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It appears Robinson left Turkey without permission of the courts. He told the BBC he had “made the hard decision to take the matter into my own hands”.

He complained he had “suffered” in Turkey for nearly a year and a half, including spending four months in prison, adding: “In Syria I managed to help civilians, and save lives. That I believe, is no act of terrorism.

“I could not accept the sentence and charges as I am not a criminal.”

Robinson, who toured Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2012, originally travelled to Syria in July 2015, as a combat medic in the fight against the Islamic State.

He returned to the UK in November 2015 and was arrested at Manchester airport on suspicion of terrorism offences, but the case was dropped after he spent 10 months on bail.

Robinson in military fatigues wearing a Kurdish flagCredit:
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Sources however suggest he remains under investigation by counter terrorism police and Britain could seek to prosecute him to assuage Turkish concerns, rather than send him back to face a jail term that could lengthened in punishment for absconding while on bail.

He returned to Turkey last year with his fiancee for a holiday in the resort of Didim when authorities arrested and charged him with terrorist offences. Miss Rojkan was also arrested and given a suspended sentence for “terrorism propaganda” after apparently sharing Facebook posts with the Kurdish flag and links to Kurdish songs on YouTube.

Robinson was convicted in September and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

A source told the Telegraph that UK authorities were likely to try to attempt to avoid a diplomatic incident by charging Robinson with a terrorism offence themselves.

Several returning YPG fighters have been charged upon their return, however none have served any time in prison.

It is not known how he fled Turkey, but it was suggested he crossed undetected by land to Bulgaria.

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