A former British soldier who fought against Islamic State in Syria has been arrested with his girlfriend and her mother on holiday in Turkey after being accused of posting pro-Kurdish propaganda on Facebook.
Joe Robinson, 24, from Accrington, Lancashire, was on holiday in the town of Didim, about 62 miles (100km) north of Bodrum, south-west Turkey, when police raided the resort in which he was staying with his Bulgarian girlfriend and her mother.
Mira Rojkan, who has since been released, said police swooped as the three relaxed on the beach, confiscating their mobile phones, computers and other digital material before taking them away for interrogation.
After taking them to a local police station for questioning, Turkish authorities released Rojkan, a law student at the University of Leeds, and her mother, but have accused Robinson with “being a member of a terrorist organisation”, according to Rojkan.
In a text message to the Guardian on Friday, Rojkan confirmed that her boyfriend is in prison. “It was just awful. They said someone had sent them an email saying we were terrorists about to do something in Turkey. They wouldn’t say who it was from. It is absolute nonsense. They arrested us on the beach while we were vacationing with my mother.”
Rojkan, who lives in Leeds with Robinson, ended the short conversation explaining that she needed to keep her phone free.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are aware of the detention of a British national in Turkey and have requested consular access.”
Robinson, who toured Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2012, travelled to Syria two years ago and served as a combat medic alongside the People’s Protection Units of Syrian Kurdistan (YPG) against Isis militants during one of the civil war’s bloodiest periods.
It is believed he stands accused of sharing photographs of himself wearing a YPG uniform and other material relating to the Kurdish militia.
Turkey has long argued that the US-backed YPG is a terrorist organisation affiliated with its own Kurdish insurgent group, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades. The YPG denies any affiliation to the PKK.
Mark Campbell, a Kurdish rights campaigner and co-chair of the Kurdish Solidarity Campaign, said: “Unfortunately, Joe has gone on holiday to Turkey not realising the kind of state it has now become.
“Turkey continues to criminalise the Kurdish question and has jailed tens of thousands of Kurdish people, including elected MPs and mayors, simply for peacefully campaigning for Kurdish rights.”
Robinson travelled to Syria in November 2015 after growing increasingly incensed by both Isis’s gory propaganda videos and what he saw as Britain’s inaction in Syria. He told his family he was joining the French Foreign Legion and returned to the UK after five months.
But upon landing at Manchester airport, he was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences. After spending 10 months on police bail, all charges were dropped. After his release he told the Guardian: “I’m just happy that the restrictions placed on me have been dropped and that I can finally move on with my life.
“I went to Syria to fight against terrorism and to protect the civilians caught up in the fighting who have had to endure the most horrendous experiences and living conditions imaginable.
“I love my country, I am ex-military and served my country in the Afghanistan conflict, but to be accused of terrorism by the same country I fought for for simply trying to help those in need has been extremely harrowing and made me think twice about the morals of the government in the UK”.