A month after their arrest following the diversion of their flight, the Belarusian authorities announced, Friday, June 25, the placement under house arrest of dissident Roman Protassevich and his Russian companion Sofia Sapega.
On its Telegram channel, the Belarusian investigative committee said it had “Considered possible” to place them under house arrest because the two accused made “Coherent confession” and are committed to “Help the investigation and identify their accomplices”.
Roman Protassevich, 26, and Sofia Sapega, 23, were detained after their arrest at Minsk airport and the diversion on 23 May of a Ryanair airliner on the Athens-Vilnius route they were in.
They are accused of having coordinated, on social networks, the historic protest movement that erupted last year in Belarus after the re-election to a fifth term of President Alexander Lukashenko, denounced as fraudulent. Since his arrest, the journalist has been exhibited on public television several times, his supporters denouncing interviews ” under constraint “. In a statement, the NGO Amnesty International estimated that their placement under house arrest “Looks like a cynical ploy” aimed at lifting the sanctions.
Continued pressure on Lukashenko’s regime
On Friday, an adviser to opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said he spoke to Roman Protassevich’s parents and learned of his placement under house arrest. “It’s a different kind of prison. The KGB people live in the same room as him ”, however, clarified Franc Viacorka on Twitter. Mr Viacorka added that the opponent’s parents did not “No contact with Roman and are afraid that he will serve as a bargaining chip with the West”, which imposed economic sanctions on Belarus. He also published a photo taken by a passerby in Minsk showing what appears to be Roman Protassevich and Sofia Sapega giving an interview in a park.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya greeted on her Telegram channel a ” good news “ even if “Supervised residence is not freedom”. “They are always indicted, their every move is monitored. They are therefore still being held hostage ”, according to her.
For his part, Sofia Sapega’s lawyer, Alexandre Filanovich, said on Telegram that he hoped for a “Positive development in the near future” for the young woman.
The regime of Alexander Lukashenko harshly repressed the protest movement, arresting or pushing into exile all the leaders of the protest, several of whom are currently on trial. Predicting another trial, the Belarusian public prosecutor’s office announced on Friday that it had sent to justice a case against lawyer Maxime Znak and Maria Kolesnikova, a charismatic figure of the opposition arrested in September, accused of “Plot to seize power”.
This week, the European Union and Washington took new sanctions against dozens of officials, including defense and transport ministers, the Air Force commander and one of Alexander Lukashenko’s sons. . The European Union also imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy on Thursday.