James Matthews pleaded not guilty to terror-related charges at a London court and has had the charges against him dropped, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the Old Bailey that the Crown Court was dropping the charges against Mr. Matthews as they believed there wasn’t a realistic chance of getting a conviction due to a lack of evidence.
The defendant, from East London, volunteered with Kurdish forces to battle Daesh* terrorists in Syria, and was surprised to be accused of “attending terrorist training camps in the war-torn state” upon his return to the UK.
Speaking on his behalf, his lawyer insisted that they always said the allegations against Mr. Matthews were “extraordinary and totally unjustified,” but described his client as happy the charges had been dropped.
Mr. Matthews isn’t the only Briton to have smuggled himself to Syria to engage in the conflict, with dozens of others also doing so, and at least seven being killed there.
The Foreign Office continues to urge British nationals to avoid Syria and hasn’t provided specific details about the number of Brits embedded in Kurdish forces there, saying “As all UK consular services are suspended in Syria, it is extremely difficult to confirm the whereabouts and status of British nationals in the country.”
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been significantly propped up by foreign fighters over the course of the conflict, primarily fighting Daesh, but some also elected to battle Turkey-backed forces which attacked Afrin earlier this year.