Dutch jihadists want to return to Netherlands, but can't escape Syria: lawyers

A number of Dutch rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war want to return to the Netherlands now that ISIS is suffering huge losses in Raqqa and Mosul, the lawyers representing them said to NOS. But escaping from the conflict zone is difficult, according to the lawyers. 

"In recent months, I often received calls from family members of people trying to come back, but it's not that easy", lawyer Andre Seebregts said to the broadcaster. According to him, the Dutch jihadists face a number of dangers, including retribution from ISIS. Several of them also had to give up their passports, which means crossing the border to Turkey can be difficult. And once in Turkey, they risk being arrested and tried there.

A lawsuit is currently ongoing in the Netherlands against ten suspected jihadists believed to be in Syria and Iraq. The Public Prosecutor wanted to hold the trial in the suspects' absence, but last week the court in Rotterdam ruled that they have the right to be present. The trial was therefore postponed for six months, when another review will happen. 

One of the suspects in the trial, Marouane B. from Arnhem, recently published an open letter in which he claims that he went to Syria to "help children, women and men who are being terrorized by the tyrant Assad". He traveled to Syria in 2014 and joined what he calls a 'fighting party'. With my whole mind I chose to become a soldier in Syria", he wrote. "But I did not choose for a trial in which I am called a terrorist by the Public Prosecutor and media in the Netherlands." He hopes to prove his innocence "if I get a fair trial on my return to the Netherlands".