The Russian-backed separatist regions of Donbass, East Ukraine have handed down the death penalty to British mercenaries captured during the conflict in Mariupol, where the nationalist battalions fought against the Russian invasion.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the Donetsk People’s Republic handed two British mercenaries, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin, together with a Moroccan, Brahim Saadoun, the death penalty. The day before, the three convicts partially pleaded guilty to training the Ukrainian military for terrorist activity and were found guilty of actions aimed at a coup d’etat in the republic. All of them were captured at a plant in Mariupol in mid-April jointly with a large group of Ukrainian armed formations from the 36thNaval Infantry Brigade, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
“The convicted foreign mercenaries have a month to appeal against the verdict, we’ll see whether they will use the opportunity,” DPR leader Denis Pushilin commented on Thursday. Their death penalty convictions could be replaced with a life sentence or a 25-year prison term. The DPR Supreme Court said the republic had never carried out capital punishment.
Lawyer Maria Yarmush told Izvestia that the UK is unlikely to help the British nationals. “Great Britain could try to mitigate the mercenaries’ verdict using diplomatic channels, yet the DPR’s judicial authorities don’t consider the mercenaries to be Ukrainian soldiers,” she said. “So, no Geneva conventions on the rights of POWs could be applied to them, while the [Donbass] republics are free to use capital punishment by their laws. At present, the mercenaries are under the DPR’s jurisdiction,” she added. DPR officials consider these people “foreign mercenaries who have been fighting against the republic, became prisoners of war and will be tried – this is part of the DPR’s powers and sovereignty as recognized by Russia,” Yarmush said.
Another lawyer and human rights advocate, Dmitry Agranovsky, doubts the verdict will ever be carried out. “They are unlikely to use capital punishment against foreigners. And yet, it could take very long to appeal the verdict,” he told the paper.
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