Conflicts & War

Belarus journalist’s TV confession was coerced, family believes

Krakow, Poland, Jun 4 (EFE).- The Belarusian opposition in exile and the family of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich on Friday claimed his televised confession to organizing anti-government protests in the Eastern European country was a result of coercion.

In a TV interview broadcast Thursday, Protasevich praised President Alexander Lukashenko and admitted to trying to overthrow him. At the end of the interview, he burst into tears.

He also accused his compatriots in exile in Poland of living a luxurious lifestyle at the expense of the Polish government and of having secret arrangements with Warsaw and Lithuania to attack Russia.

After watching the interview, Protasevich’s father said he was convinced his son had been intimidated and put under pressure for a week before the interview.

Marks were visible on his wrists and human rights groups say he was tortured.

The leader of the Lithuania-based Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, agreed with Protasevich’s father and said she was certain dissident journalists were being tortured.

Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend were taken into custody on May 23 after Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair flight on which they were traveling to land in Minsk.

The plane had entered Belarusian airspace on its journey from Greece to Lithuania, where Protasevich was based.

Protasevich is the co-founder and former director of Telegram’s Nexta channel, the main information source on the anti-government protests that erupted after the presidential election last August.

In power since 1994, Lukashenko claimed victory in the polls, which opposition activists described as fraudulent.

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