Belarus dissident’s ‘confession’ video suggests coercion and torture, experts and advocates say

Cheryl Sanders
May 26, 2021

His girlfriend Sapega is also still detained and her mother said she was now in Minsk's Okrestina jail, a notorious prison. The spokesperson for the U.N.'s human rights office, Rupert Colville, said Pratasevich's appearance was likely not voluntary and that he seemed to have bruising to his face, though it was hard to tell from the footage. "We condemn it and call for his immediate release", Trudeau said at his Tuesday morning media briefing.

He condemned "this kind of risky interference in civil aviation" as well as Protasevich's arrest, and urged his "immediate release".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shares his views on Belarus forcing down a jetliner and arresting a journalist.

Trudeau said that Canada would work with allies and worldwide institutions, including North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to put pressure on the regime and defend "journalists all around the globe".

The U.S. and the European Union had already imposed sanctions against Belarusian officials amid months of protests, which were triggered by Lukashenko's reelection to a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition rejected as rigged.

The Belarusian embassy has posted a message on its official website saying that it will be closing its embassy in Ottawa on September 1 and that it will stop processing consular documents on July 10.

"Please be informed that the Government of the Republic of Belarus has taken (the) decision to close the Embassy … in Canada", the statement reads.

The European Union has agreed to ban Belarusian airlines from the bloc and called on EU-based carriers not to fly over its airspace.

The Belarusian opposition is preparing to stage a new phase of active anti-government protests in Belarus, exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Wednesday.

Belarusian planes also faced a possible ban from flying to European Union cities, which could leave landlocked Belarus only able to reach its territory via its eastern border with its close ally Russian Federation.

Belarus has been rocked by months of protests, which were triggered by Lukashenko's reelection to a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition rejected as rigged. More than 34,000 people have been arrested in Belarus since then, and thousands beaten. "As a pariah country, Belarus will find it much more hard to fend off the Kremlin demands for the introduction of a single currency, the deployment of air bases and access to lucrative Belarusian economic assets".

Protasevich appeared in a video posted online Monday, saying he was being held in a Minsk detention center, and confessing to having "organized mass unrest in the city of Minsk". He said that Pratasevich's brief appearance on Belarus state television Monday night "was not reassuring, given the apparent bruising to his face, and the strong likelihood that his appearance was not voluntary and his "confession" to serious crimes was forced".

"This outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press", Biden's statement said.

Pratasevich, who left Belarus in 2019, has become a top foe of Lukashenko.

Other reports by iNewsToday