The Hatay 2nd High Criminal court has sentenced Muhammed Mahmud Derviş, 22, a Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militant who was captured by Turkish forces during an offensive in the northern Syrian town Afrin in March, to aggravated life in prison on charges of violating Turkey’s territorial integrity, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.
Turkish authorities believe the YPG is an extension of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria.
Although the United States has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, it formed a military alliance with the YPG in Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Derviş was apprehended by Turkish soldiers on March 18 and brought to Hatay, where he was arrested.
“That day we were told that we’d fight against Turkish soldiers. Then I tried to escape [the conflict by] moving towards Turkish territory. After they noticed, PKK militants opened fire on me. In the meantime I was injured by an airstrike,” Derviş said in his defense during the trial.
“I was staying at a PKK camp in Derik [Mardin province], where I received military and political training. I didn’t want to join the camp, but [the PKK] said I would either be imprisoned or join the camp,” he added.
Derviş also said he lost a brother and two aunts during the Syrian civil war, which started in 2011.
According to the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), aggravated life provides fewer rights to the convict such as less frequent visitors in prison than a straight life sentence. There is also no chance of parole under an aggravated life sentence.