All three earlier pleaded guilty to acts aimed at seizing power by force, with one of them additionally pleading guilty to undergoing training for carrying out terrorist activities. According to DPR laws, the highest punishment for attempting to seize power by force is a death sentence.
Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DPR) Supreme Court has sentenced three mercenaries captured while fighting for the Ukrainian forces, UK citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, as well as Moroccan Saadun Brahim, all received death sentences. DPR laws only allow for one form of capital punishment – through firing squad. However, despite issuing several death penalty sentences in the past, none have been carried out.
The convicts can appeal the court’s decision within one month, the presiding judge said.
All three mercenaries earlier pleaded guilty on charges of trying to seize power by force, which is punishable up to death in accordance with DPR laws. UK citizen Aiden Aslin also pleaded guilty to undergoing training for the purposes of engaging in terrorist activities. The court ruled that all three received payment for fighting on the side of Ukrainian forces.
The presiding judge also noted that one of the mercenaries, Shaun Pinner, was wanted in the UK as a terrorist for having fought for militant groups in Iraq and Syria.
One of the lawyers for the captured mercenaries said that the defence is planning to appeal the court’s decision and try to spare the three the death penalty. The defendants can also request that DPR’s government authorities pardon them – in this case their death sentences would be replaced with 25-year prison terms.
Reaction to the Death Sentences
Head of the DPR, Denis Pushilin, stated in the wake of the court’s decision that the convicts did not try to conceal their crimes and added that with the death penalty sentence the “justice has prevailed”. He further stated that neither UK nor Moroccan authorities had contacted the DPR regarding the future fate of their citizens, suggesting they did not care about them.
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Despite that, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss publically condemned the court’s ruling, calling it a “sham judgment”. London does not recognise the DPR’s independence.
A spokesperson for the UK prime minister also stated that London will try to release the two captured Brits by working with Ukrainian authorities. The spokesperson argued that “combatants” should not be prosecuted for taking part in hostilities, and accused the DPR of using the mercenaries for political purposes.
“We will continue to work with Ukrainian authorities to try and secure the release of any British national who was serving in the Ukrainian armed forces and who are being held as prisoners of war,” the spokesperson said.
Following the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on foreigners to travel to Ukraine to fight on its side as mercenaries. Despite many foreign governments warning their citizens against heeding this call, several thousand reportedly arrived in Kiev and were assigned to its “foreign legion”.
Several mercenaries, who ended up in captivity or were lucky enough to get back home in one piece, later told the media of poor coordination, lack of information about their tactical assignments, shortages or absence of equipment and training. Some also complained about not being paid for their services.