A friend of Moroccan national Brahim Saadoun who was sentenced to death after being captured in Ukraine fighting against Russian forces called on the UK government to save him.
Zina Kotenko, a Ukrainian refugee living in the UK described her friend Saadoun, 21, as a “kind, open-minded, and joyful person”.
In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, she called on the British government to “take care of the people who take care of democracy.” “Please save him,” she said.
Saadoun, along with Britons Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, was taken prisoner in Ukraine where they were fighting for Kyiv and sentenced to death on Thursday for “mercenary activities and terrorism” by the judiciary of the pro-Russian authorities in Donetsk.
Another friend of the Moroccan soldier, Dmytro Khrabstov, 20, said Brahim, known to his friends in Ukraine as Brian, had joined the Ukrainian army last summer and told them he wanted to “die a hero”.
“He is a bright and enthusiastic guy, dreaming about the technology of the future and how he could change things,” Khrabstov said.
He called his death sentence “inhumane”.
The father of the young Moroccan, Tader Saadoun, told the local news website Madar21 on Thursday that his son “is not a mercenary”.
In April, he had accused the Ukrainian authorities of “recruiting foreign students to exploit them in the war”.
The head of British diplomacy Liz Truss on Thursday called the verdict against the three men “a sham trial without legitimacy”.
“We reiterate that prisoners of war should not be exploited for political reasons,” said a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who pointed out that under the Geneva Conventions prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity.
‘Neither volunteers nor mercenaries’
Aslin’s family had explained in late April that he had moved in 2018 to Ukraine, where he met his partner and settled in Mykolayiv.
He had decided to join the Ukrainian Marines and served in that unit for nearly four years.
Shaun Pinner’s family said he was “neither a volunteer nor a mercenary” but officially serving in the Ukrainian army according to the country’s law.
He had also settled in Ukraine in 2018 and married a Ukrainian.
In a statement released Saturday by the UK Foreign Office, Pinner’s family explained that they were “devastated” by the decision of the court, denouncing an “illegal show trial”.
They asked that he be “granted all the rights of a prisoner of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention”.
The three fought alongside Ukrainian troops. Pinner and Aslin surrendered to pro-Russian forces in the southern port of Mariupol in mid-April, while Brahim did so in mid-March in the eastern city of Volnovakha.
Pro-Russian officials had hinted in recent weeks that captured Ukrainian soldiers, including those from the nationalist Azov regiment, could face trial and the death penalty.
A moratorium on the death penalty has been in force in Russia since 1997, but this is not the case in the two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.
Another British fighter captured by the pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill, is awaiting trial.
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