Belarus pardons former opposition leader Protasevich
Moscow, May 22 (EFE).- Belarusian authorities on Monday pardoned Roman Protasevich, former director of opposition media portal Nexta, after he had been sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this month.
“I’ve just signed the paperwork saying that I have been pardoned. This is certainly simply great news,” the journalist was quoted as saying by the state-run Belta news agency.
Protasevich reportedly said he was “deeply grateful” to Belarus and personally to President Alexander Lukashenko for the decision.
The journalist founded Nexta, which played a leading role in the protests that spread across Belarus in August 2020 following the presidential election in which Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in office. The opposition in Belarus and Western powers say the elections were fraudulent.
Protasevich has been severely criticized by the Belarusian opposition for his behavior during the trial, during which he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and said he regretted trying to bring about change in society.
Protasevich, was arrested in 2021 along with his then-girlfriend, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, after their flight from Athens to Lithuania was forced by Belarus to land in Minsk because of an alleged bomb threat.
In response, the European Union extended sanctions against the Lukashenko regime, closed its airspace with that country and recommended that European airlines avoid flying over Belarus.
Protasevich and Sapega were accused of terrorism and organizing protests, charges that Protasevich admitted in an interview on state TV, a confession that opponents believed was obtained under duress and torture.EFE