Belarus authorities arrest opposition activist after his flight makes emergency landing in Minsk
Blogger and photographer, founder of opposition telegram channels Roman Protasevich has been arrested in Belarus, after his flight from Athens to Vilnius was forced to make an emergency landing in Minsk airport amidst an alleged bomb threat. Protasevich is currently wanted by Belarusian authorities for alleged terrorist activities and may be facing the death penalty.
As Euroradio reports, Roman Protasevich was arrested during a search of passengers on the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius after it landed in Minsk.
The press service of the airport told reporters that the reason for the emergency landing was a message from the pilots about a possible bomb threat on the plane.
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Roman Protasevich recently hosted the Belarus of the Brain telegram channel and previously worked as the editor-in-chief of the opposition NEXTA telegram channel, which covered the mass protests against Alexander Lukashenko. Recently he has been living in Vilnius and was part of the team of the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
The Belarusian authorities added Protasevich to the list of individuals who allegedly performed terrorist activities as well as the international wanted list. Protasevich may be facing the death penalty for the charges brought against him.
Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya commented on the arrest of Protasevich:
“It is absolutely obvious that this is an operation of the special services to hijack an aircraft in order to detain the activist and blogger Roman Protasevich. The regime endangered the safety of passengers on board and all civil aviation for the sake of reprisals against a man who was the editor of the largest Belarusian independent Telegram channels, and that is the only reason why he was recognized as a terrorist, and only for this Roman may now be facing the death penalty in Belarus”, Tikhanovskaya said.
Tikhanovskaya added that she had already demanded that Ryanair and the International Civil Aviation Organization begin an investigation of the incident and take measures, including the exclusion of Belarus from the ICAO if necessary.
“From this day on, not a single person flying over Belarus can be sure of their safety. After all, the regime is abusing the rules of air traffic in order to capture those who criticize it”, Tikhanovskaya said.