Police carried out searches targeting three Italians on the island of Sardinia on Saturday, September 15, and seized the passport of one subject, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
According to the ANSA report, the three are residents of Cagliari and Nuoro provinces, and the action was taken as part of an investigation relating to combat activities abroad by national and local counter-terrorism police coordinated by Cagliari’s Anti-Mafia District Directorate (DDA).
One man, Pierluigi Caria, a 33-year-old Nuoro resident also known as Luiseddu or Luisi, allegedly previously fought against Islamic State in Syria in the International Freedom Battalion, linked to the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), ANSA reported. The other two subjects have not yet been named.
Caria’s passport was seized after it emerged that he may have planned to travel imminently to Syria via Iraq, ANSA reported. Preventing him from leaving Italy is the only measure taken against him.
ANSA said the investigation is being carried out under Italy’s subversive association law and relates to association for terrorism purposes. According to ANSA’s information, there is no subversive cell and the crime of participation in a terrorist organization is only hypothesized but not yet contested.
Cagliari’s DDA is investigating Caria “For having participated in the associations of the People’s Protection Units (Yekìneyên Parastina Gel – YPG) and International Freedom Battallion (IFB),” according to La Stampa.
Hundreds of foreign fighters from countries including Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States have fought alongside the predominantely Kurdish YPG in northern Syria.
The group is a key component of the U.S.-led Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance which is waging a successful campaign against ISIS in Syria.
The YPG is considered by the Turkish government to be inextricably linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, but the YPG is not a proscribed organization in the U.K., U.S. or European Union.
‘I have committed no crime’
In a later Facebook post, Caria admitted he had visited Syria last year, but said that things he had supposedly previously said had been misrepresented.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of and I have committed no crime either for my conscience or for the laws of the colonial state occupying our land,” Caria wrote. “I have never hidden my support for the Kurdish people’s struggle for self-determination.”
“I think it is simply ridiculous that the YPG and the IFB are associated with terrorism,” he wrote. “These are formations made up of Kurdish, Arab, Syriac, Turkish and Western volunteers who, in the midst of the horror of war, have been defending the population of Northern Syria for years against the Islamist cutthroats and the aggression of the Turkish fascist state.”
He added that it was “absurd” that the Cagliari DDA presumes to determine “what organizations are to be considered terrorist among those operating in Syrian territory.”
Investigation based on image
According to the ANSA report, the investigation began when a photograph of two militants spread on social media.
• Au ROJAVA, un drapeau antifasciste BRETAGNE ANTIFASCISTE déployé par des indépendantistes bretons et sardes qui…
The image, which is from May 2017 or earlier, shows two masked individuals, one holding what appears to be an AK-type assault rifle. The two are behind three flags – the Gwenn-ha-du or flag of Brittany in France, the flag of the Brittany Antifa movement, and the flag of the Four Moors, which is the flag of Sardinia.
According to ANSA, the two people in the image have been identified as Caria and Olivier Francois Jean Le Clainche, better known by the nom de guerre Kendal Breizh – Breizh means Brittany in the Breton language.
ANSA did not say who had identified the men, nor the means of their identification. The Defense Post has been unable to independently confirm the identities of the pair pictured.
Breizh was killed on February 10 in clashes on the Jandaris front in Efrin, during Turkey’s Olive Branch operation which eventually seized the majority Kurdish enclave in Syria, the YPG said. Baran Galicia, from Spain, was also killed in the clashes. Both joined the ranks of the YPG in the summer of 2017.
There have been several investigations and prosecutions of people from outside Syria who are accused of fighting alongside the YPG.
On September 14, a Turkish court sentenced former British soldier Joe Robinson to seven-and-a-half years in jail for “membership of a terrorist organization.” Robinson was arrested in July 2017 while holidaying in Turkey after he posted photos of himself in camouflage and posing next to YPG fighters in Syria.
His Bulgarian fiancee Mira Rojkan was given a suspended sentence of nearly two years in jail for “terrorist propaganda.”
On July 31, former British Army soldier James Matthews, who was alleged to have fought alongside the YPG, had terrorism charges against him dropped by U.K. prosecutors.
He was due to face trial in November after being charged with receiving training in Iraq and Syria “for purposes connected to the commission of preparation of terrorism,” but state prosecutors said that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction on “evidential grounds.”