The UK government is “deeply concerned” with the sentencing of British citizens by a pro-Russian court, the British prime minister’s deputy spokesperson said Thursday in a statement to CNN.
A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday sentenced to death three men — British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune — that it has accused of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.
“We’ve said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes. Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity, and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities,” the British spokesperson said.
“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,” according to the spokesperson.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday she “utterly condemns” the sentencing of Aslin and Pinner, calling them “prisoners of war.”
“This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy. My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them,” she said on Twitter.
Saadoune, Aslin and Pinner were sentenced to death and will be shot, according to RIA Novosti’s reporting from the court in Donetsk.
The “head of the judicial board” in Donetsk said that the convicted men “can appeal the decision within a month,” according to RIA Novosti.
One of the defendants’ lawyers, Pavel Kosovan, said that his client would appeal the verdict, Russian state media TASS reported after the death penalty was handed down.
On Wednesday, Pinner, Aslin and Saadoune pleaded guilty to acts of “seizing power by force,” state media reported at the time.
“The relevant article of the Criminal Code of the DPR provides for the death penalty,” according to RIA Novosti.
Aslin also pleaded guilty under the article “training in order to carry out terrorist activities,” according to state media.