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Online appearance by Pratasevich raises questions - RFE/RL

08.07.2021, 13:45

Detained Belarusian opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich has appeared in a new video on Twitter, raising questions over who controls the account where the video was placed and whether he appears under his own volition, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Pratasevich, a critic of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his crackdown on the opposition, was arrested along with his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, in Minsk on May 23 after Belarusian authorities forced their Ryanair flight to land in the Belarusian capital, prompting international outrage.

In one of the first posts, the Twitter account under Pratasevich's name said on July 7 that he was "returning to life on the Internet" and promised to respond to messages, saying he was answering followers' messages himself and without supervision.

The posts, however, were met with suspicion as Belarusian legislation bans persons under house arrest from using the telephone or the Internet or going outside.

Belarusian authorities already have been accused of using Pratasevich as a prop.

On June 25, news broke that had been moved from prison to house arrest after having made several appearances on Belarusian state television that prompted the opposition and Western officials to accuse Lukashenka's regime of extracting video confessions under torture and call for his and his girlfriend's immediate release.

On June 14, Pratasevich was brought to a meeting with journalists at the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. He was placed on a stage with four officials, two of whom were in uniform. Several diplomats and reporters left the event in protest.

Pratasevich faces charges of being behind civil disturbances that followed a disputed presidential election in August 2020, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

He was a key administrator of the Telegram channel, Nexta-Live, which has been covering mass protests denouncing the official results of the election, which handed Lukashenka a sixth presidential term.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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