Formby man charged with terror offences and remanded in custody till 1st March
A British man from Formby who travelled to Syria to fight against Islamic State has been charged with terror offences. He has today been remanded in custody and will appear at the Old Bailey for a plea hearing on 1 March.
Aidan James, 27, from Formby in Merseyside, is accused of the preparation of a terrorist act and attending a place used for terrorist training, after he joined the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which the British government has openly supported since Isis declared an “Islamic caliphate” in 2014.
James appeared at Westminster magistrates court today, Friday 16th February.
The 27-year-old had been fighting alongside the YPG Kurdish militia. He has been charged with one count of the preparation of acts of terrorism and two counts of attendance at a place used for terrorist training.
The court heard that James left the UK on 26 August 2017, travelling to Iraq via Jordan. He later travelled to Syria, the court was told.
Aidan James, a father-of-one from Formby, was arrested at Liverpool Airport after returning to the country on 14 February.
He was remanded in custody and will appear at the Old Bailey for a plea hearing on 1 March.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester police said: “Aidan James, of no fixed abode, has been charged with one count of preparation of terrorist acts contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 and two counts of attendance at a place used for terrorist training contrary to section 8 of the Terrorism Act 2006."
The UK government has repeatedly warned that anyone travelling to join a foreign conflict may be prosecuted. The case is the second of its kind to emerge in as many weeks.
On Wednesday, James Matthews, 43, from London, was cheered by Kurdish supporters and other returned anti-Isis fighters as he appeared in court charged with one count of attending a place used for terrorist training. He pleaded not guilty. His case is believed to be the first time that terrorism legislation has been used to prosecute someone who is assisting a group who are also being assisted by the UK Government. Matthews, pleaded not guilty to the charge and will appear at the Old Bailey on March 1.
Dozens of British men – and one woman – have joined the YPG since the first volunteers began arriving there in autumn 2014. While most, until now, have been questioned by counter-terror officers upon their return, James and Matthews are the first to be charged under the Terrorism Act.
The charges signal a significant shift in how the British government treats citizens who volunteer to fight Isis in northern Syria. The British, along with the US, France and other EU nations, have provided military, financial and tactical support for the YPG since 2014.
Many of these volunteer fighters have been arrested on their return, but have faced a long wait to find out whether there would be serious legal consequences. They have justified their actions by saying they have been fighting on the same side as the Western coalition, in trying to destroy IS.