Belarusian Opposition Journalist Arrested After His Flight Was Intercepted, World Leaders Fret

By Lore Apostol / May 24, 2021

The US, the UK, and the European Union have condemned Belarus' action to divert a flight on Sunday to arrest a journalist. Though the flight was en route from Athens (Greece) to Vilnius (Lithuania), Belarus forced the Ryanair plane to land in Minsk to arrest Roman Protasevich, who is known to be an activist opposing the Lukashenko regime.

Protasevich, 26, drew an authoritarian ruler to send a MiG-29 fighter jet to intercept a commercial flight, which outraged Western governments. European leaders will meet on Monday to discuss this situation, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. She warned that "the outrageous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences," adding that "Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned."

All this happened because the journalist is a co-founder and a former editor of the Nexta free news agency that covered incidents of the wave of protests in Belarus against the 2020 re-election of President Lukashenko using a Telegram channel. The protests made worldwide news since they were met with mass arrests and police violence that ended with many dead and harsh prison sentences for activists and journalists.

Nexta also published the Belarus police officers' data that hackers leaked last year, inviting anyone who knew further sensitive information about the exposed authority figures to share it with them. Since this news agency is playing a pivotal role in Belarus, all of the above made the President, which is seen as a dictator by most, take action. Last year, an app that seemed to belong to Nexta was discovered by Google to be actually spyware, tracking users' locations and sending data to Russian infrastructure.

Protasevich's name is on the KGB (the Belarus government's central security agency) list of terrorists for "inciting public disorder and social hatred." If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

President Lukashenko has held the position since 1994 and stated that there would be no new elections until someone kills him, so these oppressions are expected to continue indefinitely if there's nothing done about it.

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