NEWS
31/07/2018 10:54 BST | Updated 31/07/2018 11:11 BST

James Matthews, Ex-British Soldier Who Fought Against Isis, Has Terror Charge Dropped

He was the first person in UK to be charged for fighting against Isis.

PA Wire/PA Images
James Matthews, who joined Kurdish militia to fight against Isis in Syria, has had a terror charge dropped at London's Old Bailey (file photo).

A former British soldier who was accused of a terror offence after joining the fight against Islamic State in Syria has had the unprecedented charge dropped at the Old Bailey.

James Matthews, 43, of Dalston, east London, was the first person in UK to be charged with combat after joining Kurdish forces fighting against the terror group in Syria. 

He was charged with receiving instruction or training in Iraq and Syria “for purposes connected to the commission of terrorism” and had been due to face trial in November. 

But at a hearing before Mr Justice Edis on Wednesday, prosecutor Tom Little QC announced the Crown had concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction on “evidential grounds”.

Joel Bennathan QC, defending, said Matthews was “happy” at the move.

He said: “We have always said the decision to prosecute Mr Matthews for fighting with the YPG against Isis was extraordinary and totally unjustified.

“Mr Matthews is happy this has now come to an end.”

The former solider had appeared in a Channel 4 documentary, The Brits Battling Isis, about his fight against the jihadist group.

In the programme, he said he was inspired to join the YPG – a volunteer unit fighting against Isis – after seeing a photo of a fighter holding the head of a decapitated woman.

“It seemed like one of the most single evil things I’ve ever seen and it affected me quite a lot,” he said.  

British authorities have previously taken a hard line on the Kurdish YPG, arguing they could pose a potential security risk due to fears of radicalisation. 

After the news broke on Tuesday, Bennathan said Matthews was “always open about what he had done and it is baffling that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) took two years to decide to prosecute him, then seven months later they have suddenly realised there is not enough evidence to do so.”

He added: “After two-and-a-half years, we suggest Mr Matthews is entitled to a full and proper explanation of what has happened here and invite the court to direct that should be done.”