Fighting in Syria is illegal, senior UK prosecutor warns

Amer Sultan in London , Wednesday 5 Feb 2014

UK terrorism law forbids preparing for terrorist acts or joining a designated terrorist organization

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (Photo: Reuters)

The UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that British citizens who fight against  Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad regime are committing a criminal offence.

The CPS has also pledged to prosecute any British person or group of persons planning on traveling to Syria.

Sue Hemming, the head of counter-terrorism department in the CPS, said UK anti- terrorism laws forbid fighting against governments in other countries even if they are seen as dictatorships.

In a rare public interview, Ms. Hemming said, “Potentially it’s an offence to go out and get involved in a conflict, however loathsome you think the people on the other side are.”

She was referring to the 2006 UK terrorism act, which outlaws acts preparing for terrorism, assisting other people in such activity, training a terrorist or attending a training camp. The penalty ranges from 10 years to life in prison.

According to the Scotland Yard (British Police), 16 people have been arrested this year on suspicions of terrorism activities related to Syria. About 24 people were arrested last year.

UK officials including Ms. Hemming warn British citizens not to travel to Syria to join extremist groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra, which was designated in the UK as a terrorist organization.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Ms. Hemming said those Brits “can then be a threat to this country” when they return.

Some UK-based political analysts describe people who are seeking to topple Al-Assad regime as freedom fighters. However, the CPS prosecutor argues that she only applies the law.

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