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Father Of Detained Belarus Critic Alleges 'torture', Says Video Filmed 'under Pressure'

“My son cannot admit to creating the mass disorders, because he just didn't do any such thing," Belarus journalist’s father, Dzmitry Protasevich said.


IMAGE: AP/Twitter/@Tsihanouskaya

Father of a 26-year-old journalist of the alternative news platform Nexta who was detained in Belarus said on Monday that the video admission of his son was ‘coerced’ as it appears that he was “beaten up” and looked “very nervous”. One of the top vocal dissent of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Roman Protasevich, was taken into custody on Sunday after a Ryanair plane that flew out of Athens, Greece, bound for Vilnius, Lithuania was forced to divert in the capital Minsk over an alleged ‘false security threat’. 

Belarusian authorities, on May 24, posted a video of Protasevich, wherein he can be heard saying that he is in good health and acknowledges that he organized nationwide mass protests in Minsk last year against Lukashenko’s regime. The arrested journalist’s father, Dzmitry Protasevich, who watched the footage from his home in Poland, dismissed it saying that it was “not his son’s words”.

In the clip, shared by the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Dzmitry said that it looks like his son's nose has been broken “because the shape of it is changed and there's much powder on the front of it”.  He continued, ’'I think he [Roman Protasevich] was forced. It's not his words, it's not his intonation of speech, he is acting very reserved and you can see he is nervous,” the father of the detained Lithuania-based Belarusian critic and activist said. 

Furthermore, the father asserts in the video, “My son cannot admit to creating the mass disorders, because he just didn't do any such thing. It's unlikely he went for a deal with prosecutors. I think it's just that he was forced to record the message.” Protasevich was flying in the jet with 100 others, including overseas passengers, when it was abruptly ordered for a planned diversion from its scheduled destination of Vilnius, Lithuania in what the Western officials denounced as “hijacking operation” by Belarus’ authoritarian president. Ryanair commercial plane’s shortly announced that the flight was being diverted to Minsk, when it was about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lithuanian border, according to the Flight tracker sites. 

“It is absolutely obvious that this is an operation by the special services to hijack an aircraft in order to detain activist and blogger Raman Pratasevich,” Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said in a statement, cited by AP. “Not a single person who flies over Belarus can be sure of his safety.”

Lithuanian President calls incident 'state-sponsored terror act'

A MiG-29 fighter aircraft intercepted the plane on orders of Belarus’ Deputy Air Force Commander Andrei Gurtsevich. Shortly after the landing, Pratasevich, a co-founder of the Telegram messaging app’s Nexta channel was hounded by the security forces and taken into custody. In a state presser, the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called the incident “state-sponsored terror act.” Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said Pratasevich’s girlfriend and four other people did not reboard. No explosives as such were found on board the grounded plane. 


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