The father of a British citizen who volunteered with the Syrian Kurdish militia the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) has been charged with terrorism offences in the UK.
Paul Newey, 49, was confronted by police at his home on Solihull on 11 December and had his apartment searched, laptops and mobile phones seized, and was arrested and taken to a police station for questioning over the offence. His 18-year-old son, Sam, was also taken in for questioning and threatened with arrest.
They were then questioned for around 13 hours regarding the father’s elder son – 27-year-old Dan Newey – who travelled to north-eastern Syria in 2017 to join the YPG in its campaign to capture territory from Daesh and surrounding groups in the Syrian civil war. After returning to the UK, he again left for Syria in October this year to join the militia, following the launch of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring against the YPG and its affiliated groups.
Paul Newey was consequently charged under the Terrorism Act of 2000 with support for terrorism and the material support for terrorism, after which he was held for four days and released on bail with a court date to yet be confirmed.
Dan Newey himself was previously investigated by the police and put on a watchlist, but was not charged with any crimes on his return to the UK in March last year. He commented on the case of his father’s arrest and charge, stating that he is concerned that it could be the beginning of other such cases against British YPG volunteers and their families.
“On the one hand Britain supports the YPG militarily as part of the international coalition and on the other hand it is actively persecuting people that have anything to do with it,” he told the UK-based Guardian newspaper in a message from Syria. “I have no idea why [the police] have arrested my father and questioned my brother or mother. My actions are mine alone. Because they can’t get to me, they are targeting my family.”
He added that he will take responsibility for his actions upon returning, saying: “If I’m lucky enough to survive whatever happens here, then I will go home and I will take whatever ‘punishment’ they give me.”
The case comes amid the UK’s arresting and charging of family members of Britons who travelled to Syria to join other groups such as Daesh throughout the Syrian conflict. Those who volunteered and joined other groups such as the YPG – affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which launches attacks within Turkey and is listed as a terrorist group by the US and EU – have not received the same treatment from Western governments.
That changed in May this year, however, when UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned all British citizens in YPG territory in north-east Syria to leave within 28 days or else risk a ten-year prison sentence once they attempt to return to Britain.