Exiled Belarusian journalist and government critic, Raman Pratasevich, was unlawfully arrested on May 23, 2021 by the Belarusian authorities along with his partner Sofia Sapega, a Russian national. Their Athens-Vilnius flight was diverted and forced to land in Minsk under false pretext. Raman Pratasevich was wanted by the Belarusian authorities on trumped-up “terrorism” charges solely for his journalistic work. If convicted, Raman Pratasevich is facing up to 20 years’ imprisonment. A televised “confession” may indicate torture and other ill-treatment.
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Ambassador Dmitry Basik
Embassy of Belarus
1619 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202 986 9420 I Fax: 202 986 1805
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Dear Prosecutor General,
I am writing to demand the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich
and Sofia Sapega,
arrested on May 23, 2021 after their Athens-Vilnius flight was forcibly diverted by the Belarusian authorizes to Minsk under false pretext. Raman Pratasevich was charged under Articles 293(1) (“Organization of mass disorders”), 342(1) (“Organization or active participation in group actions that severely violate public order”) and 130(3) (“Incitement of racial, ethnic, religious or other social hatred or enmity”) of the Criminal Code. The grounds for Sofia Sapega’s arrest have not been disclosed. It appears that they have been detained in retaliation for Raman Pratasevich’s critical journalistic work.
There is no evidence that Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega have committed an internationally recognized crime, and their detention is arbitrary. Their arrest was conducted in an unlawful and reckless manner, putting all passengers of the plane at risk when a Belarusian Air Force fighter jet diverted their flight and escorted it to Minsk.
On May 24, 2021, Belarusian state television broadcast Raman Pratasevich’s self-incriminating statement in front of a camera with clear bruises on his face. I am concerned that this “confession” may have been extracted by force. Amnesty International has documented widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment in Belarus, violations of the right to a fair trial, and arbitrary prosecution of peaceful protesters and independent journalists in Belarus.
In light of the above, I urge you to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Raman Pratasevich, Sofia Sapega and all those who have been arbitrarily detained and imprisoned in Belarus under trumped-up politically motivated charges in retaliation for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;
- Take immediate steps to protect Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega from torture and other ill-treatment, including by launching an effective investigation into credible allegations of torture, and ensuring they have immediate, unimpeded and confidential access to a lawyer of their choice.