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Belarusian civil society named Protasevich political prisoner

25.05.2021, 13:18

A number of Belarusian human rights organizations have recognized Roman Protasevich, a journalist detained on May 23 at Minsk airport, to be a political prisoner. This is said in the statement made by the organizations, as the human rights center "Viasna" reported.

According to human rights activists, Roman Protasevich is accused by the Belarusian authorities of crimes under Part 1 of Art. 293 ("Organization of mass riots"), Part 1 of Art. 342 ("Organization or active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order") and Part 3 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code ("Incitement to social discord").

" Raman Pratasevich’s public activity is nothing but the peaceful exercise of the freedoms guaranteed by both the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and international human rights law, the freedom to seek and disseminate information and to express one's opinion, among others.

According to international standards of freedom of expression, no one may be subjected to any kind of restriction, including deprivation of their rights or penalties due to their own opinions or beliefs”, they said in the statement.

"(…) We consider the persecution of Raman Pratasevich to be politically motivated, as it is related to the peaceful exercise of his opinion, and the detainee is therefore a political prisoner, in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners. We call on the Belarusian authorities to:

-immediately release Raman Pratasevich and drop the criminal charges he is facing;

-release arbitrarily detained Sofia Sapega;

-release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country”, the statement said.

The statement was signed by: Viasna Human Rights Center; Belarusian PEN Center; RGO "Legal Initiative";”Lawtrend” Center for Legal Transformation; Belarusian Association of Journalists; "FORB Initiative"; Belarusian Documentation Center., Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

As IMI reported, Roman Protasevych was detained on May 23. He was a passenger on the Athens-Vilnius flight, which made a forced land in Minsk due to a report of a bomb threat on board. After the inspection, Belarusian police arrested him. Ryanair has received instructions from Belarusian air traffic controllers to land the plane in Minsk. By order of the president Lukashenko, a MiG-29 military fighter was lifted into the sky to escort the plane.

Together with Protasevich, security forces detained his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

As IMI reported, the State Security Committee of Belarus entered the founders of the NEXTA Telegram Channel to the list of persons involved in terrorist activities, along with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s leaders and other international terrorists.

An updated version of the List of organizations and individuals involved in terrorist activities has been published on the website of the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus

As IMI reported, on November 16, Belarus sent a note to the Polish side demanding immediate extradition of Stepan Putyl and Roman Protasevich. 

On November 5, the Investigative Committee of Belarus accused Stepan Putylo and Roman Protasevich of organizing mass riots in Belarus. 

On October 20, the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk found the Nexta Live telegram channel and the Nexta logo to be extremist. 

The telegram channel Nexta Live, which covers the protests in Belarus  has been renamed as "HEXTA-Live", after a Minsk court recognized his logo as "extremist stuff."

On August 14, it became known that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus had opened proceedings against the founder of the opposition telegram channels Nekhta and Nekhta Live, Stepan Putylo and declared him wanted. He faces up to 15 years in prison. Putyla is accused of organizing mass riots.

In August, Russia's Interior Ministry put Stepan Putilo, the founder of the Nexta Telegram channel on a wanted list.

The telegram channel Nexta Live, despite the shutdown of the Internet, became the main source of information about the protests in Belarus.

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