An Australian Kurdish journalist accused of travelling overseas to fight for a terrorist organisation was not there to engage in guerrilla warfare but to chronicle history, a Sydney jury has heard.
Renas Lelikan's lawyer says his client is a thinker, writer, journalist and social commentator who recorded events "for those like him who had ... an empathy for the Kurdish struggle".
"We're all going to become very familiar with his body of work," Phillip Boulten SC told a Sydney jury on Wednesday.
His 40-year-old client is facing trial in the NSW Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to engaging in hostile activities in a foreign state.
The Crown alleges Lelikan was in the mountainous regions of southern Turkey and northern Iraq in 2012, following some time in Europe, to engage in armed conflict for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Prosecutor Paul McGuire SC during his opening address said the PKK was listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia.
He expected there would be evidence Lelikan set himself alight in 1999 and suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body during a protest at Sydney's Town Hall which was related, among other things, to the arrest of the PKK's leader.
The prosecutor suggested the incident demonstrated the extent and strength of the Sydney man's ideological views.
He said he expected photos would show Lelikan overseas, carrying a weapon and wearing uniforms said to belong to the PKK and one of its military arms.
Lelikan allegedly spoke in emails of the armed conflict, instances where he managed to "make it by a whisker" and what would be "the greatest and most fierce resistance in history".
The court heard he previously pleaded guilty to another charge of intentionally being a member of an illegal terror organisation, and the prosecutor said jurors could take that into account when considering why he was in Iraq and Turkey.
He said the Crown didn't have to prove that Lelikan actually fought, just that he had the intention.
But Lelikan's lawyer said his client didn't engage in armed hostilities, and emphatically denied he was guilty of the current charge.
He wasn't a soldier or a member of the PKK's military arm, but he was a sympathiser and at least an informal member of the PKK, Mr Boulten said.
The trial continues.