The Belarusian opposition leader Roman Protasevich was pardoned a few weeks after his conviction. It is assumed that after his arrest he was forced to cooperate with the Belarusian secret service.
Two years after his spectacular arrest and a few weeks after his conviction, the former government critic Roman Protasevich has been pardoned in Belarus. “Most of all, I am personally incredibly grateful to the country and the President for this decision,” Protasevich said on Monday in Minsk, according to the Belarusian media. After his arrest, Protasevich was shown several times on Belarusian state television, where he distanced himself from his opposition activities.
The spectacular arrest of Protasevich on May 23, 2021 caused a stir far beyond the borders of the ex-Soviet republic. 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. Both were then arrested. The Russian citizen Sapega was later sentenced to six years in prison – and has since been transferred to Russia.
Protasevich has been under house arrest for two years
Protasevich was sentenced to eight years in a prison camp by a court in the capital Minsk in early May. He has been under house arrest since June 2021. The public prosecutor had accused the former editor-in-chief of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta of an attempted coup. After the 2020 presidential election, Nexta called for protests against the authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, who again had himself declared the winner. The vote was not recognized internationally. Lukashenko had the protests brutally crushed, but has since been considered even more dependent on Moscow.
Protasevich was considered a political prisoner. Relatives believe he made his pro-government statements in detention under pressure and torture. Hundreds of Lukashenko opponents are still in prison. Many have rejected an arrangement with the power apparatus.
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