A 28-year-old Melbourne man has been remanded in custody after being charged by the Melbourne Joint Counter Terrorism Team for attempting to travel to northern Iraq to fight with Kurdish forces against Islamic State.
Jamie Williams, of Epping, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, was arrested on Monday night and made a brief appearance in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
He was remanded in custody until his next court appearance in October and his lawyer Rob Stary said he would be applying for bail.
Williams appeared calm in the dock during the short filing hearing, and was supported by his partner and mother.
He was dressed in a black T-shirt and had a beard and a tattoo on his left arm.
It will be alleged Williams “undertook preparations and attempted to depart Australia in December 2014”.
He was detained at Melbourne Airport on December 28 last year.
When asked what he was travelling for it is believed Williams admitted he was going to fight with the Kurdish forces, and planned to travel to the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah.
Sulaymaniyah is a well-known entry point for Westerners wishing to join the fight against Islamic State.
His passport was immediately seized.
Members of the Customs service, now part of the Australian Border Force, identified him as a potential foreign fighter as he attempted to board a flight for Qatar.
Various items of “military-style equipment and clothing” were allegedly found in his luggage.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) executed a warrant on Williams’ house in March and seized his mobile phone and a computer.
The warrant allowed the police to seize anything relating to the Lions of Rojava and a woman named Kader Kadandir, who runs the Lions of Rojava Facebook page.
The Lions of Rojava is a Facebook page of Kurdish sympathisers who use it to promote their cause and recruit Western fighters.
AFP Assistant Commissioner for Counter Terrorism Neil Gaughan said regardless of who it was, undertaking a plan to travel to Syria or Iraq to support those involved in the conflict was “illegal and highly dangerous”.
“While this individual did not actually travel, people need to be aware that actively planning and undertaking preparations to travel to the conflict area still constitutes a criminal offence,” he said in a statement.
Williams has been charged with one count of preparing for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities.
The maximum penalty for the offence is life in prison.
Parents of Reece Harding urge leniency for fighters
The parents of Gold Coast man Reece Harding, who was killed fighting with the Kurdish YPG forces in June, want that to change.
Keith Harding told the ABC’s 7:30 program that Australians who support the YPG should not be treated in the same way as those who fight for or support Islamic State.
“We’ve got to change public opinion for these foreign fighters that are fighting against ISIS and allow them to come home safely,” he said.
“For all we know Reece might still be alive today if he had a chance to go and rest up back here.
“Or he may have come back here and we could have talked to him, and kept him here.”
They are urging other young people to not enter the war.
“I don’t want any other children or young people to take up the cause,” Michele Harding said.
“I want them to use their voices to spread the word of what’s happening to get our governments to go in and help.”
“These kids aren’t professionals.
“Reece had never held a gun, and he’s dismantling booby-traps and landmines.”