Robert Clark, the British ex-serviceman who was prevented from traveling to Iraq to fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), has spoken out for the first time since being sentenced under the Terrorism Act last week.
Speaking exclusively to RT, Clark says IS sympathizers have sent him “threats” and “hatred” via Facebook since his story went public last year.
“I think I’d be safer in Iraq at the moment, with everyone posting articles and saying I shouldn’t be fighting ISIS,” Clark told RT’s Rob Edwards.
“I lost access to all my Facebook accounts. I don’t know who it was. But I managed to get back into an old Facebook with my actual name. And in the message requests there’s a bit of a, well, a bit of hatred in my inbox, put it that way. Just like loads of threats basically.”
The 23-year-old from Carmarthenshire, Wales, who served four years in the British Army, says it was wrong to arrest him because he doesn’t pose a security threat. The real danger, he says, is home-grown Islamist extremism.
“If you just look in the media and you see people going out to fight with ISIS. If they’re not stopping them but they’re stopping me then there’s something a bit wrong.
“They knew exactly what I was doing… but there’s people going out there which they don’t know about going to ISIS camps, and they’re wasting time arresting me, doing all this court case, just wasting police time, when they could be following up on people who they need to be following up on.
“They knew I had no associations with terrorists, and there’s people flying out there freely who have links to terrorism.”
Clark contrasts his case with the time it took to convict hate preacher Anjem Choudary – who was sentenced in August 2016 for incitement to violence.
“It’s like that hate preacher… how it took them five years to put him in jail. One of the police officers dealing with my case was actually on his case and was saying that it took them five years to put him in jail while it takes six weeks to put me in jail.”
Last week Clark was handed a year-long community order for failing to give officers the password pin to his cell phone during a routine counter-terrorism check at Heathrow Airport back in September, while attempting to board a flight to Jordon. Once in the country he planned to take a connecting flight to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he was to be met by members of the Peshmerga.
He is required to perform 50 hours’ unpaid work and pay a fine of £85 (US$103). He is also banned from leaving the British Isles for a year.
“The reason they stopped me was the Schedule 7 counter-terror law. They don’t have to have a reason to stop anyone – they can just literally pick some random person and say, ‘We’ll stop him.’”
Clark insists he had cooperated fully with officers before his scheduled trip.
“They knew exactly what flight I was getting on, they knew what kit I had in my bags, they knew everything.
“The police had given me an official document stating I was going to go and fight against terrorism and they’re basically advising me not to travel and if anything did happen to me, if I got kidnapped, the British government wouldn’t assist me in any way.
“They told me they had no power to stop me from going. They can just advise me not to travel. And [yet] as soon as I get to the airport, they arrest me for being a terrorist.”
Clark also hit out at media coverage of his arrest and subsequent trial. He was apprehended while attempting to board a flight to Jordon and was not, as was widely reported, traveling to Syria to fight with the YPG (People’s Protection Units), he said.
“I was going to Iraq to help in the Mosul offensive. I don’t know where they got that information from… My flights were booked to Iraq. I wasn’t planning on crossing the border any time. I just wanted to help the Iraqi people, the victims of war.”