The Dutch public prosecutor said on Tuesday that motorbike gang members who have reportedly joined Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group in Iraq are not necessarily committing any crime.
"Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden," public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.
"You just can't join a fight against the Netherlands," he clarified to AFP after reports emerged that Dutch bikers from the No Surrender gang were fighting alongside Kurds against ISIS terrorists in northern Iraq.
The head of No Surrender, Klaas Otto, told state broadcaster NOS that three members who traveled to the Mosul region in northern Iraq were from the Dutch cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda.
A photograph on a Dutch-Kurdish Twitter account shows a tattooed Dutchman called Ron in military garb, holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle while sitting with a Kurdish comrade.
Video footage apparently from a Kurdish broadcaster likewise has shown an armed European man with Kurdish fighters saying in Dutch: "the Kurds have been under pressure for a long time."
Many countries including the Netherlands have been clamping down on their nationals trying to join ISIS jihadists who have taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Measures include confiscating would-be jihadists' passports before they have the chance to travel and threatening prosecution should they return.
"The big difference with ISIS is that it's listed as a terrorist group," said De Bruin. "That means that even preparing to join ISIS is punishable."
Dutch citizens could not however join the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish group blacklisted by Turkey as a terror organization over its fight for independence from the country, De Bruin said.
Dutch citizens fighting on the Kurdish side would of course be liable to prosecution if they committed crimes such as torture or rape, De Bruin added.
"But this is also happening a long way away and so it'll be very difficult to prove," said De Bruin.