A former British soldier facing jail in Turkey for allegedly fighting with Kurdish forces against IS has told Sky News he worked as a combat medic, helping to treat injured civilians.
Former British soldier Joe Robinson was arrested while on holiday in Turkey last year for allegedly fighting alongside the People’s Protection Units of Syrian Kurdistan (YPG) in Syria.
Turkey is hostile to the YPG because of its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.
But Robinson, 25, told Sky News he “didn’t do any operations with the YPG”.
“I was only in Syria for a month,” he said. “I was only a combat medic. I helped treat injured civilians who’d been caught up in the fighting.
“‘The rest of the time I was with the Peshmerga who are an internationally recognised army.
“I don’t think I deserve to spend seven and a half years in prison for a crime I haven’t committed.”
Robinson said he was only arrested because someone had been stalking him.
He explained: “A person that I didn’t know, that has never met me, that was stalking me on Facebook and following me sent an email to the police, making up all kinds of things, telling them that I was a terrorist, and all these sorts of things.”
His interactions with the British government have been disappointing, he said.
The Foreign Office “doesn’t seem very interested in my case”, he said, as he pleaded with the UK to “help me – do something”.
He added: “When we’ve pushed the Foreign Office, they’ve basically said they haven’t had any discussions.”
At the beginning of his “really hard ordeal” he spent four months in solitary confinement in a “high security prison”.
“‘I was kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day,” he said. “I was only allowed out for one hour a day to walk around in a small circle.
“I didn’t really have any human interaction – I wasn’t allowed to speak to or see my fiancée for the entire four months.
“I didn’t even get to speak to my family for the first two and a half months. And then it was only a ten minute phone call once every two weeks.”
There was little for him to do, either. “I wasn’t allowed any reading material in the prison,” he said.
“I was just locked in this room for 23 hours a day with nothing to do, no one to speak to – completely isolated.”
His predicament is taking its toll in his health, and that of his mother, describing himself as “emotionally, mentally and physically drained”.
His mother’s mental health has deteriorated severely, he said, adding that “she’s recently had a psychotic breakdown”.
He is surviving financially with help from family and friends, who are in turn beginning to struggle with money.
He is unable to leave Turkey, and cannot get a visa, meaning he cannot work.
Robinson admitted he had taken risks: “Some people might think it was risky to go in the first place,” he said.
“In all reality it probably was. maybe it was a bit of naivety on my part – maybe it was a bit of naivety on all of us who came here.”