Man who went to Iraq to fight Islamic State found guilty of terrorism offences

A British Army reject who trained to fight against Islamic State has been found guilty of terrorism offences following a landmark trial.
Aidan James.Aidan James.
Aidan James.

Aidan James, 28, from Formby, Merseyside, had no military knowledge when he set out to join the war in 2017.

Following an Old Bailey retrial, James, who was repeatedly turned down by British armed forces due to his mental health, was found 
guilty of training in weapons with the banned Marxist political organisation the PKK in Iraq.

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But he was cleared of a second charge of attending a place of terror training with Kurdish YPG units – or “People’s Protection Units” – in Syria.

The defendant was remanded into custody to be sentenced on 7 November.

It is the first time a Briton has been put on trial for going to Syria to oppose IS, after similar charges were dropped against ex-soldier James Matthews, 43, from Dalston, east London.

The court had heard how James was in contact with the anti-terror Prevent programme before he left Britain for Iraq in August 2017.

According to an officer’s notes of a meeting in April, ruled inadmissible in the trial by Mr Justice Edis, James said he wanted to help the “PKK YPG” in their battle against Isis.

Days later, he was arrested on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts by police after broadcasting his intentions on Facebook.

During his interview he claimed he was going to Syria to help with “humanitarian aid” and dismissed the suggestion he was going for terrorism as “ridiculous”.

James said: “Nothing will stop me going, even if you take my passport off me I will still find a way to go.”

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The defendant said he was “ripped” from 11 years of kickboxing training, but had been turned down by the Army, RAF, Navy and Territorial Army because of his mental health.

The father-of-one put his plans on hold, but set off for Iraq in August after his bail was cancelled and passport returned.

He wrote in his diary that sitting on a roof with a 50 calibre machine gun, was like something out of “Mad Max”.

The court heard he finally returned to Liverpool John Lennon airport on 14 February last year on flights via Baghdad, Amman and Amsterdam.

James declined to give evidence but denied training with PKK terrorists in Mahkmour, Iraq, and attending another camp for training in Syria with YPG units.