Dutch prosecution seeks 3-year sentence for Dutch Kurd who fought ISIS in Syria with YPG medical unit
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch Public Prosecution Service on Thursday told a criminal court that it was seeking a sentence of three years in prison for a Dutch Kurd who in 2016 served as a volunteer for the People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) in Syria during as part of operations against the Islamic State.
Prosecutors have charged the Dutch citizen, knowns as Devin, with “preparation for murder or manslaughter in Syria and/or Iraq.”
“We emphasize that it is forbidden to travel to a conflict area for armed struggle, especially if you join a jihadist group like ISIS,” the Dutch prosecution argued during the trial, as reported by the Dutch news agency AD.
However, the Dutch prosecution also argued that the law also applies to those who join a group like the YPG that fight the Islamic State and are widely seen by the majority of the Dutch public as a positive force in Syria.
“But I do assume that the suspect did indeed go to help people. He didn’t go there to join a sniper unit, for example,” the prosecutor was quoted during the trial by AD.
Devin’s lawyer asked the judge to acquit his client or dismiss the case entirely, arguing, “There is no criminal intent.”
Devin earlier told AD he was part of the YPG’s Tactical Medical Unit (TMU) during the battle for the control of Tabqa Dam. “I wanted to help people, fighters and civilians. I didn’t want to kill people, everybody can do that,” he said.
“I carried a gun, you can see that on a lot of pictures. I also put those on Facebook. But that was for self-defense if IS (Islamic State) would attack the medical unit.”
“I didn’t need the gun to fight. Nevertheless, I was shot at by snipers,” he claimed.
Devin, now 30, says he is surprised by the sentence sought by the prosecution.
“I am shocked by this demand,” he told Kurdistan 24. “The prosecution also doesn’t have concrete evidence and nothing is concrete. They only took a few pictures from my own Facebook [page] and a quote from John Hardin about the TMU in which he says it's plausible that the medical unit participated in active combat.”
“But this is plain nonsense and not evidence. There are ISIS fighters that get lower (sentencing) recommendations.
According to Devon, the Dutch prosecution wants to make him into an example “so they want to sentence me, regardless of the facts, if I committed what they claim.”
The court is scheduled to give its final verdict on June 18.
Macer Gifford, a British former YPG volunteer who also was a member of the same medical unit and has since written a book about his experiences in Syria expressed solidarity with the Dutch fighter on Twitter.
“He went to Syria to help people, to resist ISIS and to show the world that internationalism is alive and well. It is absurd to harass and threaten him when thousands of ISIS fighters are waiting to come back to Europe.”
This is not the first time a Dutch citizen who has returned to the Netherlands after fighting against the Islamic State has been arrested or faced trial for doing so.
This is despite the fact that the YPG and its volunteers are supported by the US-led Coalition against the Islamic State, of which, since its founding, the Netherlands has been a member.
Although Dutch ground forces have conducted no missions in Syria, the European nation’s military has provided air support there to troops fighting the Islamic State.
In 2016, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service withdrew a case against the most well-known Dutch YPG volunteer, Jitse Akse, due to a lack of evidence.
Another Dutch volunteer known by the name Andok was arrested last year by Dutch police for being suspected of “participating in armed combat.”
Editing by John J. Catherine