Accused teenager 'lied about being a militant to hide truth about boy'
A UK teenager on trial for preparing to commit terrorist acts with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) claimed she lied about becoming a militant to hide the "shameful" truth that she was travelling with a boy.
Silhan Ozcelik, 18, of Holloway in north London, denies a charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts after she left her parents' house for Brussels on a one-way Eurostar ticket in October 2014.
In a video message left behind, she told her family she planned to join the PKK and be used however they saw fit.
She said: "Believe me this is the right thing for me to do. I am so happy right now that I have become a militant."
Ozcelik gave evidence on the second day of her Old Bailey trial, claiming she left the messages because her family would have been more accepting of her political aspirations than her secret relationships.
She said: "I couldn't have told my parents I was going off with a boy, it was really shameful in our community."
She added: "I thought even if it doesn't work out, and I come home, my family would accept me."
"In the Kurdish community, if you say I'm joining the PKK, everyone will look up to you, they'll respect you. If you say you're going off with a boy, the situation changes."
Ozcelik recalled first learning about the PKK when she watched a film called Beritan as a 13-year-old.
She described the film, which depicts the death of a female fighter who sacrifices her life over a cliff to avoid capture, as "melodramatic and in some ways romantic".
She said: "It was amazing because first of all, it was something new, and second of all it was about women."
The jury heard 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.
Ozcelik also followed events in Kobani 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."
Peter Rowlands, defending, asked: "Despite all you have said, did you yourself ever want to go and join the PKK?"
Ozcelik replied: "No."
She told the court she felt "cool" recording the video, which she made on her laptop with the aid of notes, but it seemed funny later.
Ozcelik said: "It took me two weeks to prepare the whole speech."
Despite initially describing her family unit as "happy", Ozcelik told the court she was later subjected to cultural restrictions, including that she not be out of the house after 5pm.
Of her relationship with her parents, she said: "I didn't have any freedom at all, I didn't have the freedom that a British girl would normally have."
Ozcelik was arrested at Stansted Airport in January this year when she returned from Germany, telling the authorities she had no idea why she was being taken into custody.
While overseas, Ozcelik visited Holland and Germany with a 28-year-old man called Mehmet, with whom she wanted a relationship.
She told the court she initially "felt like an adult" but then ended up doing the cooking and cleaning and was oppressed, much like she was in London.
Ozcelik said: "I ended up in the same situation."
She eventually called her mother and told the truth, but made her promise not to tell any other family members.
"She was really worried and she wanted me to come back home," Ozcelik said.
She was given money by her uncle in Germany but eventually realised she had to go home.
When asked if she regretted making the video, Ozcelik replied: "Yeah I regret everything - it's caused trouble for my family and everyone else."
Under questioning from Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, Ozcelik admitted she gave varying accounts to different people about the purpose of her trip - including that it was primarily to meet her uncle, to study, or to spend only a week in Europe.
Mr Pawson-Pounds said: "Would you accept from me, during this period of your life you've told a number of lies?"
Ozcelik replied: "Unfortunately I have because of my community's expectations."
The trial will continue from 10am on Thursday.