The International Press Institute (IPI) repeated its demand for the release of Roman Protasevich, former editor of the NEXTA Telegram channel in Belarus, after he appeared on state television to offer a forced “confession”.
The disturbing segment was broadcast Thursday night on Belarus’s ONT channel. Protasevich praised Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko and admitted seeking to oust him. Protasevich broke into tears and scars could be seen around his wrists.
Protasevich’s family as well as Belausian opposition figures said the statement was made under duress and torture.
“There are almost no words to express our horror at Belarus’s arrest and abuse of Roman Protasevich, which shows that this regime knows no limits as it seeks to crush all critical voices”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We demand the immediate release of Roman and Sofia Sapega. The torture and state-sponsored kidnapping must be met with uniform international condemnation, and we call on the EU to respond with an expanded and effective sanctions framework against Belarus.”
Protasevich and Sapega, his girlfriend, were arrested after Belarus forced a Ryanair flight travelling from Athens to Lithuania to land at Minsk airport on May 23 under the pretext of a bomb threat.
Over two dozen journalists are currently behind bars in Belarus according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Hundreds have faced arrest or violence as the Lukashenko regime seeks to squelch coverage of the country’s pro-democracy movement.