A Belarusian courtroom convicted a dissident journalist who was arrested on an industrial flight headed for the nation and sentenced him to eight years in prison on Wednesday.
The dramatic arrest of Raman Pratasevic in May 2021 sparked outrage in the West, with some leaders saying the hijacking amounted to a state-sponsored kidnapping.
Belarusian flight controllers ordered a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk after telling the crew there was a bomb threat to the flight. No explosives were found on the plane when it was located below, but Pratasevich, a citizen of Belarus who was once in exile, was arrested.
His Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, was additionally arrested. The aircraft was then allowed to proceed to its unique resting place.
In response to the forced sabotage, a number of Western international organizations have imposed a series of sanctions on the latest deployment sites and banned their aircraft from flying over Belarus.
THE FORMER LEADER OF THE BELARUS OPPOSITION was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Pratasevic ran Nexta, a channel on the Telegram messaging app that was widely used by individuals during protests against the disputed 2020 election that gave authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. He was charged with rioting and conspiracy to embezzle energy.
Nexta is probably one of the most popular opposition stores. Together with its sister channel, Nexta Live, it has 1.4 million followers.
The founder of the Telegram channel, Stiapan Putzila, and another editor of the channel, Jan Rudzik, were sentenced in absentia to twenty and 19 years in prison. Both remain in exile.
After his arrest, Pratasevich made a series of statements on Belarusian state television, condemned the opposition and apologized to Lukashenko. statements that critics said sounded less than coercive. Both Pratasevic and his girlfriend, Sapega, were later released from custody and placed under house arrest.
BELARUS HAS PASSED A LAW TO PROSECUTED OFFICIALS CONVICTED OF TREASON.
In May 2022, Sapega was found guilty and sentenced to 6 years in prison. Three days later, a message from a Telegram channel believed to belong to Pratasevic tried to distance her from Sapega, saying they had broken up much earlier and that she was married to someone else.
The Associated Press could not independently confirm whether the post was freely written by Pratasevic or any of the claims contained in it.
Sapega, meanwhile, has asked Belarusian authorities to extradite him to his home country of Russia to serve the remainder of his sentence. The authorities of Belarus agreed. It was not immediately clear when that might happen.
Sviatlana Tsykhanuskaya, leader of the exiled Belarusian opposition, called Pratasevic, Putzila and Rudzik a “neglect of justice” by the “Belarusian regime”, which carried out a “pretentious trial”.
Pratasevic, Tsykhanuskaya wrote on Twitter, “was a hostage of the regime because Ryanair hijacked (the plane).”