Belarus parades opposition journalist before media

Belarusian air force chief Igor Golub and detained journalist Roman Protasevich heading to a media briefing in Minsk on Monday.
Belarusian air force chief Igor Golub and detained journalist Roman Protasevich heading to a media briefing in Minsk on Monday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MOSCOW • The opposition journalist captured by Belarus after the flight he was on was diverted to Minsk was paraded before the media in a scene that the opposition denounced as Kafkaesque.

Mr Roman Protasevich has already appeared in two controversial videos in which he confessed to alleged crimes - confessions dismissed by the opposition and his family as made under duress.

In Monday's news conference, which was organised by the Foreign Ministry, the 26-year-old activist said that he was in good health.

He also said that he had not suffered any ill-treatment in jail since his May 23 arrest and imprisonment.

"Never mind what he says," tweeted Mr Franak Viacorka, an adviser to the opposition's leader in exile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. "Let's not forget, he's a hostage."

"This isn't a press conference but a scene out of Kafka, or Orwell," he added.

There was an international uproar when the Athens-to-Warsaw Ryanair flight on which Mr Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega were travelling was intercepted by a Belarusian fighter and forced to land in Minsk.

The European Union has imposed sanctions, including asset freezes and visa bans, and told European operators not to use Belarusian airspace.

But two senior officials at Monday's news conference reiterated the official line in Minsk that the flight had to be diverted because they had received a bomb threat from Palestinian group Hamas.

Several Western leaders have dismissed this version of events, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel who described it as "completely implausible".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2021, with the headline 'Belarus parades opposition journalist before media'. Subscribe