“He was betrayed”: the sister of a Moroccan captured in Ukraine asks for help | Ukraine

The sister of Brahim Saadoun, the Moroccan man who was captured while serving in the Ukrainian army, said she feared he had been abandoned by his own government and called on the international community to “demand my brother”.

“I just want any authority, anyone willing to help, to come and help,” Iman Saadoun said in an interview with the Guardian, describing being left in limbo as he sought government support for him. .

Saadoun was one of three men sentenced to death by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine in a show trial designed to mimic the convictions of Russian soldiers for war crimes. The other two were Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she would do “whatever it takes” to secure their release.

Morocco has sought not to criticize Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, for its invasion of Ukraine. While European countries have widely condemned the war, pro-Russian views are more common in the Middle East and Africa.

Iman said the local press and many people on social media celebrated her brother’s sentencing.

Brahim Saadoun in a courtroom in Donetsk, under Russian occupation. Photo: Supreme Court of the Donetsk People’s Republic/Reuters

“He’s really betrayed,” she said. “When he received the verdict of the death sentence… almost everyone, maybe 10% helps him, but the majority is happy that he is going to die. They celebrate the fact that he will be shot. And it hurt my heart because I couldn’t find support in my own community.

“Now I am pleading for someone to come and claim my brother because he has not been claimed in his own country,” she said.

The Moroccan government remained silent on his case until last week, when its embassy in Ukraine made a terse statement that Saadoun “was captured while wearing the uniform of the Ukrainian state army. , as a member of the Ukrainian Navy unit”. The statement said he is “currently imprisoned by an entity that is recognized neither by the United Nations nor by Morocco.”

Iman shared hateful social media posts she saw online about her brother from accounts in Morocco.

“Honestly he needs to be killed, this genre is not Moroccan,” one user wrote in a series of posts. Another user used the hashtag “kill Brahim Saadoun”.

He received greater support in Ukraine, where fellow students described Saadoun as kind and curious, and a popular member of the local techno community. A number of friends had raised awareness under the hashtag #SaveBrahim, while saying they feared media attention had focused solely on the two Britons in the dock.

“I want people to write for him on this #SaveBrahim campaign,” she said. “Just save Brahim because he shouldn’t be forgotten… If it wasn’t for his friends, most people wouldn’t know.

Brahim and Iman Saadoun children
A childhood photo of Iman and Brahim Saadoun. Photo: c/o Iman Saadoun

Iman said she has kept in touch with Brahim online but has not seen him in person since 2017, before he moved to Ukraine to become a student at a polytechnic university. His childhood dream was to become an aerospace engineer. “He loved everything about airplanes,” she said. “He wanted to build them.”

His father said Saadoun obtained Ukrainian citizenship in 2020 after undergoing military training at his university. His friends shared videos of him heading to his deployment with a stuffed dog and a tie-dye garland attached to his military backpack.

Russia called Saadoun a mercenary, but provided no evidence. He deployed to Mariupol in November 2021 as a member of a Ukrainian marine unit, according to friends and government officials, and was captured in April.

Iman said she immediately recognized her younger brother when she saw videos of him being interviewed by a Russian journalist in prison, and the images of him behind bars haunted her and her family.

She said she called a local Moroccan embassy for help, where she was told, “What do you want me to do about this?” Other officials had given a similar response. “They’re literally trying to put you in limbo,” she said, describing a series of demands made to the Foreign Office and other government agencies.

British officials said they were working for the release of Aslin and Pinner, but were not conducting direct negotiations and were working through the Ukrainian government.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the Russian-controlled territory in Donetsk, said he saw “no reason” to pardon the prisoners and that a swap “is not even being discussed”.

“Neither Britain nor Morocco” had made direct contact to discuss the fate of the prisoners, he said. The Donetsk People’s Republic is recognized by only a handful of international governments and is widely seen as a puppet of Moscow.

Sign up for First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

Iman said if it could save her brother’s life, she would be ready to take his place.

“I want to give myself in his place,” she said. “I’m ready to do it. They can just take me. I don’t care what they do to me. Take me and leave my little brother.

Comments are closed.