‘Feckless’ Islington teen convicted over bid to join PKK

Silhan Ozcelik

Silhan Ozcelik - Credit: Archant

A “feckless” teenage girl from Islington has become the first Briton to be convicted of trying to join the banned Kurdish group PKK.

Silhan Ozcelik, 18, of Highbury Quadrant, Holloway, was on trial at the Old Bailey charged with engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts.

The court heard she left Britain on the Eurostar in October 2014 and was arrested in January after getting off a flight from Germany at Stansted airport.

She left letters and a video for her family telling them she had gone off to try to fight with the Kurdistan Workers Party, the court heard.

But in her defence, she claimed that was a lie and she actually went to see a man she had formed a romantic attachment to in Brussels.

The jury deliberated for less than a day to find her guilty and she was sentenced to 21 months in prison by Judge John Bevan QC.

She has already spent eight months in custody on remand which will count as time served.

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The judge rejected a plea for a suspended sentence, and told her: “You are a stupid, feckless and deeply dishonest young woman. You have lied to your family and this jury.”

The trial had heard that the defendant travelled to Brussels on a one-way Eurostar ticket four months after dropping out of college.

She left behind a letter for her family, informing them she had joined the ranks of the PKK - a proscribed terrorist organisation under UK law.

In it, she wrote: “Believe me this is the right thing for me to do. I am so happy right now that I have become a militant.”

In a 25-minute video in Turkish, she told her family: “My fight, my struggle is not just for the Kurdish people, it is for all people, for all women.

“It must not be misconstrued. This is not a Kurdistan matter. Even if Kurdistan is established today I will not return.”

Miss Ozcelik, who is of Turkish descent, made no comment to police after she was arrested at Stansted Airport in January.

Giving evidence, she denied that she had joined PKK saying she had lied about the real reason for her trip because going off with a boy was “really shameful in our community”.

While overseas, Ozcelik visited Holland and Germany with a 28-year-old man called Mehmet, with whom she wanted a relationship, the court heard.

She told the court she initially “felt like an adult”, but then ended up doing the cooking and cleaning and felt oppressed, much like she was in London.

She called her concerned mother who told her to come home after she told her the truth, Ozcelik said.

The defendant said she had a long standing interest in the PKK since she watched a film called Beritan as a 13-year-old.

The film, which depicts the death of a female fighter who threw herself off a cliff to avoid capture, was “melodramatic and in some ways romantic”, she said.

Miss Ozcelik later made a collage of PKK leaders, Kurdish and Turkish socialists, and Che Guevara as a school project.

From 2013, she was keenly observing political developments involving the PKK, including a push from its leader for peace.

The defendant also followed events in Kobani, in Syria, during Islamic State massacres.

She said: “The only people defending them over there was the YPG, the PKK. It was amazing, the fact that they were there and they were trying to protect innocent people - I just admired it.”

She told the court she felt “cool” recording the video on her laptop with the aid of notes, but it seemed funny later.

Asked if she regretted it now, Miss Ozcelik, replied: “Yeah I regret everything - it’s caused trouble for my family and everyone else.”

Afterwards, Commander Richard Walton, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command (SO15), said: “We continue to remain concerned about the number of young women and girls being drawn into all forms of terrorism.

“We urge parents and families to talk to us at the earliest opportunity if they have concerns about any girl or women being enticed into supporting terrorist groups like the PKK or Isil.”