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26-year-old detained journalist has lifelong fight against Belarus regime
One thing is clear from Thursday’s broadcast of weeping dissident Belarusian journalist and opposition activist Raman Pratasevich declaring his respect for dictator Alexander Lukashenko: He was plainly tortured into doing it.
“They beat him — you can see the marks,” Pratasevich’s father, Dmitry, said. “All his words are the result of psychological and physical violence.”
On a state-TV program June 3, Pratasevich praised Lukashenko and said he “immediately confessed to organizing mass disorder.”
Back on May 23, Lukashenko’s goons faked a bomb threat and deployed a fighter plane to force down a jet owned by Irish-based Ryanair (en route from Greece to Lithuania) to kidnap Pratasevich in flagrant defiance of all international air conventions.
Pratasevich fled Belarus in 2019 out of fear that authorities would abduct him. He was plainly right.
The journalist’s been covering mass protests denouncing the official results of the August vote that gave Lukashenko a sixth presidential term. He’s charged with being behind them, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison, because he ran a channel on a messaging app used to organize some demonstrations.
In response to the Ryanair forcedown, Britain, France and Lithuania have ordered their planes to avoid Belarusian airspace, while the European Union is tightening sanctions on Lukashenko’s regime. President Joe Biden said last month that US sanctions are “in play” but declined to “speculate until we get it done.”
Now Belarus’ ruler has added torture to the illegal kidnapping of a man who should’ve been protected by international law. Whatever Biden had in the works, it needs to get tougher still: Lukashenko and his inner circle all need to suffer until they free Pratasevich and pay damages for his suffering.
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