Netherlands says OK for biker gangs to fight ISIL
THE HAGUE - Agence France-Presse
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul on June 11, 2014. REUTERS PhotoThe Dutch public prosecutor said on Oct. 14 that motorbike gang members who have reportedly joined Kurds battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq are not necessarily committing any crime.
"Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden," public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.
"You just can't join a fight against the Netherlands," he told AFP after reports emerged that Dutch bikers from the No Surrender gang were fighting ISIL insurgents alongside Kurds in northern Iraq.
The head of No Surrender, Klaas Otto, told state broadcaster NOS that three members who traveled to near Mosul in northern Iraq were from Dutch cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda.
A photograph on a Dutch-Kurdish Twitter account shows a tattooed Dutchman called Ron in military garb, holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle while sat with a Kurdish comrade.
Video footage apparently from a Kurdish broadcaster shows an armed European man with Kurdish fighters saying in Dutch: "The Kurds have been under pressure for a long time."
Many countries including the Netherlands have been clamping down on their nationals trying to join ISIL jihadists who have taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Measures include confiscating would-be jihadists' passports before traveling and threatening prosecution should they return.
"The big difference with IS is that it's listed as a terrorist group," said De Bruin.
"That means that even preparing to join IS is punishable."
Dutch citizens could not however join the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), as it is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and much of the international community, De Bruin said.
Dutch citizens fighting on the Kurdish side would of course be liable to prosecution if they committed crimes such as torture or rape, De Bruin said.
"But this is also happening a long way away and so it'll be very difficult to prove," said De Bruin.