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Dissident Belarusian journalist who was pulled off of economic flight sentenced to eight years in jail

A courtroom in Belarus convicted a dissident journalist who was arrested after being pulled off a industrial flight that was diverted to the nation and sentenced him Wednesday to eight years in jail.

Raman Pratasevich’s dramatic arrest in May 2021 elicited outrage within the West, with some leaders saying the aircraft’s diversion was tantamount to state-sponsored hijacking.

Belarusian flight controllers ordered the Ryanair jetliner touring from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk, telling the crew there was a bomb menace towards the flight. No explosives had been discovered on board as soon as the airliner was on the bottom, however Pratasevich, a Belarusian citizen who lived in exile on the time, was detained.

His Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, was additionally arrested. The aircraft then was allowed to proceed on to its unique vacation spot.

In response to the compelled diversion, a number of Western international locations imposed a raft of recent sanctions and barred their planes from flying over Belarus.


Pratasevich ran Nexta, a Telegram messaging app channel that was broadly utilized by individuals in mass protests towards the disputed 2020 election that gave authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth time period in workplace. He was charged with organizing unrest and plotting to grab energy.

Nexta is likely one of the most well-known opposition shops. Together with its sister channel, Nexta Live, it has 1.4 million followers.

The founding father of the Telegram channel, Stsiapan Putsila, and one other editor of the channel, Yan Rudzik, had been sentenced in absentia to twenty and 19 years in jail respectfully. Both stay in exile.

Belarus police arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich,

Belarus police arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich, heart, in Minsk, Belarus, on March 26, 2017. A Belarusian courtroom sentenced Pratasevich to eight years in jail. (AP Photo, File)

After the arrest, Pratasevich went on Belarusian state tv a number of instances to admit, denounce the opposition and apologize to Lukashenko — appearances that critics stated had been made below duress. Both Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sapega, had been later launched from custody and put below home arrest.


In May 2022, Sapega was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in jail. Three days later, a message on a Telegram channel billed as belonging to Pratasevich sought to distance him from Sapega — saying they’d separated lengthy earlier than and that he was married to another person.

The Associated Press couldn’t independently confirm whether or not the put up was freely written by Pratasevich or any of the claims it contained.

Sapega, within the meantime, petitioned Belarusian authorities to extradite her to her residence nation, Russia, to serve out the rest of her sentence. The Belarusian authorities agreed. It wasn’t instantly clear when which may occur.

Belarus’ opposition chief in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, referred to as the sentences to Pratasevich, Putsila and Rudzik “disregard for justice” on the a part of “the Belarus regime,” which carried out “a pretend trial.”

Pratasevich, Tsikhanouskaya stated in a tweet, has “been the regime’s hostage because the Ryanair (aircraft) hijacking.”

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