The father of a Moroccan man facing execution after being captured by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine appealed Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene, “as a father,” to spare his son from the firing squad.
“I want my son back, just like any father would,” Taher Saadoun told reporters in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
Saadoun also called on Morocco’s government to pursue negotiations on behalf of his 21-year-old son, Brahim, who was sentenced June 9 to the death penalty alongside two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner. They are the first foreign fighters sentenced by Ukraine’s Russian-backed rebels.
A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic convicted all three of terrorism and trying to overturn constitutional order. They were given a month to appeal, and could be executed as soon as early July if they don’t.
The proceedings were denounced by the West as a sham and a violation of the rules of war, but the sentence was supported by Russian officials.
Saadoun’s father insisted that his son was not a mercenary, as the court claimed, but was enlisted in Ukraine’s regular army and that when he was captured, he was wearing an official Ukrainian army uniform and carrying a weapon with serial numbers belonging to the Ukrainian government.
The Donetsk republic’s self-styled “foreign minister,” Nataliya Nikonorova, told Russian state TV on Monday that none of the three condemned men have filed yet for pardons.
The father said his son’s local lawyer will submit the appeal when things calm down a bit, without providing a date. A lawyer for Aslin said the Briton is pessimistic about his prospects and that British authorities have not contacted the DPR about an appeal.
Saadoun’s father said he wrote to Putin and the leader of the Donetsk Republic, and pleaded for intervention on his son's behalf.
“I’m appealing to Russian President Putin to step in as a father, by using NGOs and humanitarian organizations” to seek dialogue, Taher Saadoun said. “Russia is accountable because it supports the Donetsk Republic.”
The Moroccan foreign ministry said in a statement earlier this month that Saadoun obtained Ukrainian citizenship and enlisted in the Ukrainian army “of his own free will,” and is imprisoned by “an entity which is recognized neither by the United Nations nor by Morocco.” It has not commented on eventual efforts for his release.
The family is seeking to provide Brahim Saadoun with its own lawyer, and to visit him in prison. They haven’t spoken to him since his arrest.
“I am ready to board the first flight to see him and bring him home,” his father said.