A regional court has sentenced the Belarusian opposition figure Protasevich to eight years in a prison camp. The government-critical journalist was arrested two years ago after his scheduled flight was forced to land.
The Belarusian opposition leader Roman Protasevich has been sentenced to eight years in prison by a court in Minsk. The regional court sentenced the former editor-in-chief of the opposition medium Nexta “to eight years in a prison camp,” reported the Belarusian news agency Belta.
The public prosecutor’s office accused the 27-year-old blogger of plans to illegally seize power, the news agency reported, citing its correspondent in the courtroom.
The journalist, who has been under house arrest since June 2021, was accused of helping to coordinate the mass protests against the controversial re-election of head of state Alexander Lukashenko in the summer of 2020. Prosecutors had asked for ten years in prison for him.
Internationally, Protasevich, who used to be editor-in-chief of the opposition Telegram channel “Nexta”, is considered a political prisoner in authoritarian Belarus.
Plane was forced to land in Minsk
Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were on a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania on May 23, 2021 when it was diverted to the Belarusian capital and forced to land there.
The Belarusian authorities justified this with a bomb threat against the plane.
Subsequently, both he and Sapega were imprisoned. Sapega, who is a Russian citizen, was later sentenced to six years in prison.
After his arrest, Protasevich appeared several times on Belarusian state television, where he distanced himself from his opposition activities. However, relatives assume that he made his statements under pressure and torture.
Lukashenko is taking tough action against the opposition
The Belarusian ruler Lukashenko, a close confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been known for cracking down on the opposition in his country with extreme severity since the suppression of anti-government protests in the summer of 2020 at the latest.