Motorbike gang members who have reportedly joined Kurds fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq are not necessarily committing any crime, the Dutch public prosecutor said on Tuesday.
"Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden," public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.
He was speaking after reports emerged that Dutch bikers from the No Surrender gang were fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State insurgents in northern Iraq.
What is forbidden, De Bruin explained, is fighting against the Netherlands.
No Surrender leader Klaas Otto told the Dutch state broadcaster that three gang members from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda had joined Kurdish forces in the northern Iraqi area of Mosul.
A photograph of a tattooed Dutchman named Ron, in military uniform and holding an assault rifle, has appeared on a Dutch-Kurdish Twitter account, while video from a Kurdish broadcaster has shown an armed European man with Kurdish fighters speaking Dutch.
The difference between joining the Kurds and the Islamic State is that " IS is listed as a terrorist group," De Bruin said. "That means that even preparing to join IS is punishable."
Dutch citizens could not however join the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), as it is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and much of the international community, De Bruin said.
He added that Dutch citizens fighting on the Kurdish side would of course be liable to prosecution if they committed crimes such as torture or rape, though it is "happening a long way away and so it'll be very difficult to prove."
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