The Moroccan and two British fighters, given the death penalty by the Russian-back separatist court in Donetsk, had submitted an appeal against their sentences. 

According to a Russian state news agency report, TASS, Moroccan Brahim Saaudun, and Britain’s Shaun Pinner appealed last Friday. Aiden Aslin, the other British fighter, followed suit on Monday. In his appeal, Pinner asked for his sentence to be life imprisonment instead.

Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Supreme Court was cited saying they would consider appeals within no more than two months. They have also updated their criminal code, which states the death penalty will be used starting in 2025. The updated DPR criminal code took effect on Friday, July 1, 2022. However, what this meant for the three men or how it would affect them remains unclear.

Last April, the Russian-backed forces captured Aslin and Pinner in Mariupol during the ‘bloody’ fight to control the city. According to the families of both men, both had been living in Ukraine since 2018. 

Captured British Fighters Shaun Pinner (right) and Aiden Aslin (left) appearing on Russian propaganda videos after the surrendered in Mariupol (Combined by SOFREP, Photos from Jake Hanrahan and TritonTaranis82 from Twitter)

Saaudun, on the other hand, surrendered last March in a small town between the capital of Donetsk and Mariupol. He was then arrested in April. SOFREP reported last month that Saaudun’s father told a Moroccan newspaper that Sauudun might be a Ukrainian citizen.

Last month, the three men, Saaudoun, Pinner, and Aslin, received the death sentence after being charged with “terrorism.” All three were in uniform, serving the Ukraine government. 

Ukraine has claimed the three men as members of the Ukrainian armed forces. This entitles them to be under the Geneva Convention as Lawful Combatants. This means they should be given combatant immunity and not be prosecuted for war crimes.

However, the DPR court treated them as “mercenaries” and not as active-duty soldiers. The court also added the charge of being a mercenary on top of their existing charge. 

The trial has received flak from the international community. Furthermore, many condemned the conviction and trial as a sham, with Robert Jenrick, a member of parliament, saying that it was a “Soviet-era show trial.”

Russia Removed From the European Court of Human Rights

On June 30, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Russia to ensure the two British fighters would not face the death penalty. The order said Russia “should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out; ensure appropriate conditions of their detention; and provide them with any necessary medical assistance and medication.”

However, just last month, Russia’s parliament passed legislation removing it from the European Court of Human Rights jurisdiction. The ECHR is Europe’s top human rights court. 

“Russia no longer complies with the prescriptions of the EHCR [ECHR]; that’s all there is to say,” said Dimitry Peskov, Russian spokesman.

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This means now that they have been removed from the ECHR, they are not bound by the order. This also leaves Aslin and Pinner’s fate under the DPR leadership’s hands.

Two More British Charged as “Mercenaries”

After Aslin and Pinner, two more British in Ukraine were captured and charged by Russian forces. 

The Russian forces reportedly captured Andrew Hill, 35, and Dylan Healy, 22, back in April. TASS reported that last April 29, video footage of the Russian Defense Ministry questioning Hill was published. According to them, Hill surrendered to the Russians in the Mykolaiv Region. 

Hill reportedly had recorded in his notepad about a mass grave near Irpen and Bucha with around 280 civilians.

According to a source from TASS, Healy was reportedly captured in Mariupol at the Illich plant where the 36th Ukrainian Marine Brigade was previously deployed.

Investigators from DPR charged the two men with “forcible seizure of power” and “terrorist” training. However, this information was from an anonymous official and could not be verified. Like Aslin and Pinner, they have also been branded “mercenaries.” TASS also reported that a source in DPR law enforcement added that the two men refused to testify. 

“Criminal cases have been initiated and charges were presented for [mercenarism] against British citizens Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, currently in detention in DPR. Investigation operation are underway as the investigators look for evidence of the crimes, committed by the British, because they do not want to testify and refuse to cooperate on their criminal cases,” said the source.

The Russians have been parading Hill on Russian television as blatant propaganda. Last month, he was shown in a clip with the headline: “Exclusive – before the execution.”

Hill, a father of four from Plymouth, previously served in the Lancaster regiment of the British army. The man appeared severely injured when he was first shown on Russian television after his capture. He had a bandage on his head, and his left arm was in a cast.

The second British, Healy, was reportedly in Ukraine as a humanitarian aid volunteer, independently of any significant organization. According to Healy’s friend as he told ITV, he believed that Healy went to Ukraine “to try to help and make a difference.” 

Healy was reportedly detained with another British man, Paul Urey, near Zaporizhzhia. However, there was no mention of Urey in the announcement regarding the charges of Hill and Healy. Therefore, as of writing, no know charges have been filed against him.

These men’s backgrounds will probably have little to no influence on the verdict they will receive, which the DPR court will hand. Moreover, many think it’s highly likely that Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy will receive the same sentence as Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner.