“Plans to illegally seize power” – that’s just one of the allegations against Roman Protasevich. The arrest of the blogger and regime critic two years ago caused international outrage.
Two years after his arrest, the Belarusian government critic Roman Protasevich has been sentenced to eight years in a prison camp. The public prosecutor’s office accused the 27-year-old blogger of, among other things, plans to illegally seize power, the Belarusian state news agency Belta reported on Wednesday, citing its correspondent in the Minsk courtroom. Internationally, Protasevich, who used to be editor-in-chief of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta, is considered a political prisoner in authoritarian Belarus.
The spectacular arrest of Protasevich in May 2021 caused outrage far beyond Belarus. He was on a flight from Athens to Vilnius with his then-girlfriend Sofia Sapega when the Belarusian authorities forced the Ryanair plane to land in Minsk because of an alleged bomb threat. 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.
The Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, a close confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been known, at least since the suppression of anti-government protests in the summer of 2020, for cracking down on the opposition in his country with extreme severity.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.