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The journalist who was plucked from the air by Lukashenka was pardoned

One of the founders of the Belarusian opposition portal Nexta went into exile in Lithuania in 2019. He was on his way from Athens to Vilnius on the Ryanair plane with his Russian girlfriend, Sofija Szapegáwhen the air traffic control ordered the plane to make an emergency landing in Minsk citing a bomb alarm above the Belarusian airspace.

Pratasević and his girlfriend were arrested immediately after landing, the latter was sentenced to six years in prison last May, and the activist was sentenced on May 3 an eight-year sentence, which he was supposed to serve in a penal institution. The charges included organizing mass riots, demanding sanctions against Belarus, creating or leading an extremist group, and conspiring to seize power.

The circumstances of Pratasević’s arrest caused international outrage, the European Union initiated sanctions Alyaksandr Lukashenka against the Belarusian leader.

After his arrest, a recording of the journalist appeared on Belarusian state television, in which he tearfully admits his opposition activities and that he organized to remove Lukashenka from power. According to the Belarusian opposition living in exile, he made the confession under duress.

Regarding the current pardon decision, Pratasevich said that he was “deeply grateful” to Belarus and personally to President Lukashenko for this decision.

It is not known exactly what the grace refers to.

According to the Belarusian human rights organization Vyasna (Spring), there are almost 1,500 people in prison in Belarus for opposition activities. Among them is the founder of Vyasna, Alesz Viktaravics Bjaljacki human rights activist, one of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureates, who was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Cover photo: Roman Prataszevics at a press conference in Minsk in 2021. Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images