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Moroccan and two British men captured by Russian forces in Ukraine sentenced to death

The pro-Russian authorities in Donetsk have found them guilty of fighting as mercenaries
AP/VADIM GHIRDA  -   Un rebelde prorruso mira hacia arriba mientras monta en un tanque con bandera rusa, en una carretera al este de Donetsk, en el este de Ucrania

AP/VADIM GHIRDA  -   A pro-Russian rebel on a road in Donetsk

A day after the trial, the Donetsk court has sentenced Saaudun Brahim, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, accused of fighting as mercenaries in Ukraine, to death. The prisoners of war had pleaded guilty to actions aimed at the violent seizure of power, although none of them admitted to having fought as mercenaries in the Ukrainian war.

Moroccan Saaudun Brahim had been in the Ukrainian armed forces since March, while Aslin and Pinner, aged 28 and 48 respectively, had been in the Ukrainian army for years.

"Based on the results of the analysis of the totality of the evidence examined at the court session, the court concludes that the guilt of Aslin Aiden, Pinner Sean and Saadun Brahim has been proven," the verdict reads, Russian news agency TASS reported. "Based on the totality of the crimes, Aslin Aiden, Pinner Sean and Saadun Brahim should finally be sentenced to death," the non-internationally recognised Donetsk court added.

Judicial authorities in the pro-Russian separatist republic have said the convicts have one month to appeal the sentence, which the three prisoners are already working on, TASS reports. "The desire of the three defendants is to appeal against this verdict, because they were not ready to hear today's imposition of capital punishment, i.e. the death penalty," the Russian agency said. 

The British government has been quick to condemn the sentencing of Aslin and Pinner. "This trial is bogus and has absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever," wrote Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. "We continue to do all we can to support them," she added.

The family of Aslin, who previously fought with a Kurdish group against Daesh in Syria, has accused Russia of violating the Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war after a video of the serviceman "speaking under duress and clearly suffering physical injuries" was released, reports The Guardian. In early March, Russia announced that captured foreign fighters would not be recognised as prisoners of war and therefore would not have the rights of such status. 

Andrew Roth of the British newspaper also points to the possibility that Moscow is using the process to put pressure on the UK to organise a prisoner exchange involving Russian soldiers convicted of murder and other war crimes during the invasion of Ukraine. Kiev has so far already sentenced three Russian servicemen, one of them to life imprisonment.