Police quiz Wakayama man captured near Syrian border, find no link to IS


Police on Friday finished questioning a 23-year-old Japanese man after he was deported from Turkey for allegedly attempting to join the Islamic State group, finding he had not committed a crime, according to investigation sources.

According to police, who had been questioning him on a voluntary basis about why he was in southern Turkey and where he was headed, the man has said, “I got fed up with living in Japan. I thought going abroad would lead to a change.”

“I never imagined that my trip would cause this much trouble,” he said.

The man is from the seaside town of Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture, according to Japanese government sources.

Police said his belongings, including his cellphone, showed he had no connection to IS. The man returned to Japan on Thursday evening.

Upon his arrival, reporters asked him if he tried to go to an area controlled by Islamic State, and the man said, “I didn’t.”

When Turkish security forces detained the man, along with several Syrians, near the Syrian border in Gaziantep Province late Tuesday, he claimed he was a tourist, according to the security sources.

Police were looking into whether the man may have broken a Penal Code provision that bars a person from preparing or plotting to wage war against a foreign state in a personal capacity. “He seems to have gone abroad without any specific plans. Right now, he is not suspected of any crime,” the investigation sources said.

According to Turkish media, the man was in contact with IS members over social media and was trying to enter Syria through Turkey. He was captured during a search of a suspicious car.

The reports said police confirmed by examining the man’s cellphone that he had made contact with the extremists. Dogan News Agency reported that the man said during interrogations that a Syrian person he made contact with convinced him to join the radical jihadi group.

Images published by several media organizations showed a man wearing glasses kneeling on the ground with his hands above his head while armed guards stand near him. The media reports identified him only as M.M.

This is believed to be the first case of foreign security authorities detaining a Japanese citizen for trying to join IS.

“My son said on the 14th of this month that he was going to travel to Europe,” his mother, 49, told Kyodo News.

“He has never talked about Syria, IS, nor any extremist organizations, and did not seem interested in them,” said the mother, who lives in Shirahama.

In October 2014, Japanese police questioned a Hokkaido University student and several others, and raided several locations in Japan as part of a police investigation into allegations the student planned to travel to Syria to fight for the group.