News2023.05.03 15:41

Lithuanian FM slams Minsk court’s sentence for Pratasevich

BNS 2023.05.03 15:41

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has condemned a Minsk court decision to sentence Belarusian blogger and activist Raman Pratasevich to eight years in prison.

“We unequivocally condemn it. [...] The story is complicated, and we have been consistent in our assessment that he’s a victim of repression, regardless of what the regime has been saying or what he has been forced to say,” Landsbergis told BNS on Wednesday.

Pratasevich was detained by the Minsk regime in 2021 after the Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania was forced to divert and land in Minsk following false reports from Belarus officials that there was a threat of an explosion.

The blogger was then accused by Belarusian law enforcement authorities of helping to coordinate mass protests against the authoritarian Lukashenko regime and of a conspiracy to seize power.

“What has happened is, in fact, sad but not surprising because this is the kind of a regime that treats its citizens like this and has done so before,” Landsbergis said.

Two other defendants in this case, Sciapan Pucila and Jan Rudzik, who live abroad, were tried in absentia and were sentenced to 20 and 19 years in prison, respectively.

Pratasevich was flying from Greece to Lithuania with his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega. She was later accused of incitement to social discord and threatening law enforcement officials. A Belarusian court sentenced her to six years in prison in May 2022.

Following their arrests in 2021, Belarusian state media published videos of Pratasevich and Sapega’s “confessions”. Opposition supporters said they were forced to confess, as it was the regime’s common tactic to put pressure on critics.

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