The father of a Moroccan man sentenced to death on mercenary charges by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine said his son should be treated as a prisoner of war as he is a Ukrainian national who handed himself in voluntarily.
Morocco-born Brahim Saadoun and Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order” of the DPR, Russian media said last week.
The DPR and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) are two breakaway Russian-backed entities in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which Russia says it is fighting to remove entirely from Kyiv’s control.
The three men were captured while fighting for Ukraine against Russia and Russian-backed forces.
The Moroccan fighter received Ukrainian nationality in 2020 after undergoing a year of military training as a requirement to access aerospace technology studies at a university in Kyiv, his father Tahar Saadoun said in an email to Reuters news agency on Monday.
He handed himself in “voluntarily” and should be treated as a “prisoner of war”, the father said. The sentence will be appealed, he added.
“We as a family suffer from the absence of contact with the lawyer to exchange legal information and this adds to our ordeal,” he said.
According to local media, Saadoun is 21 years old and has been imprisoned since April.
A friend of Saadoun’s was quoted as saying that he made friends with British soldiers who helped him join the Ukrainian army in November 2021. But his father insisted that his son, who reportedly speaks several languages, was forced to work as a translator for the Ukrainian forces without signing an agreement to do so.
The sentences sparked outrage in Western countries, but separatist Donetsk leader Denis Pushilin said on Sunday he would not alter them.
“They came to Ukraine to kill civilians for money,” he told reporters, calling the punishment “perfectly fair”.
The families of Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner say they have been living in Ukraine since 2018.
Ukrainian courts have handed three Russian soldiers long prison sentences at war crimes trials.