Three men, two Britons and a Moroccan, have been convicted and sentenced to death for fighting on the side of Ukraine in its war with Russia, media outlets reported Thursday.
British nationals Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin and Morocco's Saadoun Brahim were found guilty after a three-day trial of "mercenaryism" and terrorism by the High Court of Donetsk People's Republic, one of the self-declared independent countries at least partially occupied by Russia.
Russian media agency Tass was the first to report the news on its Telegram page.
Ukrainian attorneys representing Pinner, Aslin and Brahim have been given one month to appeal the decision.
Pinner and Aslin were captured in Mariupol in April and reportedly admitted to "training in order to carry out terrorist activities." Head of the DPR Denis Pushilin accused the trio of "monstrous" crimes. A video shared from the court by RIA News showed the two men pleading guilty to the charges.
Saadoun surrendered to Russian forces in March.
The speaker for the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oleh Nikolenko, criticized the court decision in a statement.
"Such 'trials' elevate propaganda above law and morals and undermine correct war prisoners exchange. Ukraine's government will do everything in its power to liberate all of our defenders," Nikolenko said.
All three men signed contracts with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which claims that they are granted the same rights as regular soldiers. However, the Geneva Conventions generally consider mercenaries as "unlawful combatants" and does not grant them the same protections.
A declaration of someone as a mercenary can be made by a "competent tribunal," which is dubious in the case of the Donetsk court, which is only recognized by Russia and similar breakaway republics.
"I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine," British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter. "They are prisoners of war. This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy."
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