Moroccan’s death sentence being ignored, sister says

The plight of the Moroccan man who has been sentenced to death in Ukraine has been largely ignored, his sister says.

Brahim Saaudun, 21, and two Britons were captured fighting with the Ukrainian army and tried as mercenaries by a Russian proxy court.

The British and Ukrainian governments have condemned the trial but Morocco is yet to comment.

Iman Saaudun told the BBC he had been “left aside” as attention was focused on the other men.

“At first, when they captured all of them, then it was like different news about every person,” she told the BBC.

“There wasn’t much attention on my brother … Maybe it’s because of my government, they are not doing much about it, they are literally silent.”

The BBC has contacted the Moroccan government for a response.

Like many countries in Africa and the Middle East, Morocco has avoided taking sides in the conflict in Ukraine, calling instead for a peaceful resolution to the war which started with Russia’s invasion of the country in February this year.

On June 13, Morocco’s king underlined his country’s “solid friendship” with Russia in a message to President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of Russia’s National Day, without mentioning Mr Saaudun’s case.

He moved to Ukraine to study and received Ukrainian nationality in 2020 after undergoing military training required to access aerospace technology studies at a university in Kyiv, his father Tahar Saaudun said in an email to Reuters news agency.

Brahim (L) moved to Ukraine to study and his friends in Kyiv are campaigning for his release

After his capture alongside Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner all three were tried by a proxy court in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian breakaway region in eastern Ukraine. They were tried as mercenaries rather than being treated as prisoners of war.

The men’s lawyer said they all wished to appeal against the sentence, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.

The court is not recognized internationally, but Russia’s foreign minister has defended the death sentences it gave the men.

Iman said she feared that her brother did not know that people were trying to help him.

“I just want to tell him you’re loved. I just want to tell him, like, things will be OK. Don’t be scared. He’s my little brother. That’s what a big sister should do, but I couldn’t do. I can’t do that, “she said.

Brahim's sister

Iman has not been able to speak to her brother since his capture

Friends are now campaigning for his release and posting under the hashtag #SaveBrahim.

“Everyone is heartbroken,” Dasha Oleynik, a close friend of Mr Saaudun, told the Guardian newspaper.

“I wish he knew how much support he actually has… how many people care, how many people write about it, how many people post about it.”

Iman hailed his friends’ efforts.

“Your government let you down. Your own people let you down, but others did not and they will find their best for you”.

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