Roman Protasevich’s parents, the Belarusian journalist arrested in Minsk after the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight on Sunday, have called on the international community to do more to stop Alexander Lukashenko’s “evil” tactics and “save” his son.
Protasevich, an exiled dissident and outspoken critic of the Lukashenko regime, and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, were arrested in Minsk after their plane landed in Belarus.
Authorities have claimed that the grounding of the flight was ordered for fear of a bomb. However, no evidence has been provided to back up that claim and international leaders have accused Belarus of carrying out a scheme to arrest the journalist.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Protasevich’s parents Natalia and Dmitry Protasevich said they were sure their son was being tortured and urged leaders around the world to increase sanctions against Belarus and demand the release of Roman.
Addressing journalists, Natalia asked governments around the world to “help me save my son, my son.”
“Please listen to the cry of my heart,” he said. “It is a horrible situation that we are in.”
“All he wanted was to help his country, his fellow citizens,” he said of his son. “We ask for your support to spread [this] information.”
Claiming that a recent video posted online of Roman, which according to his supporters appears to have been made under duress, Natalia said that “you can see in the video how my son has been tortured.”
“My son Roman was clearly beaten,” he said. “I know my son. I know his features. Of course, I am not a surgeon or a doctor to make big claims, but I can see that under all the makeup that was done to him, his nose was probably broken, he had a scar on his neck. His face it seemed like he was being tortured for some time, “he said.
As far as Protasevich’s parents know, the detained journalist has not been allowed visitors, including doctors.
Protasevich’s father, Dmitry, said he believed visits were not allowed and that the place where his son is being held is not being disclosed because the Lukashenko administration wants to “hide the bad things they are doing to people.”
Natalia said she feared that many other “bright young men” are facing the same treatment as her son and urged international governments with “some kind of influence over Lukashenko” to intervene “so that he can stop torturing the wonderful bright young man and stop all of the bad things he’s doing right now. “
“Every day of waiting counts,” he said, adding, “Please save my son and all the other people who are being tortured.”
Dmitry said he believed that further action, including sanctions, against Belarus was necessary.
Meanwhile, he said he believed that “the closure of Belarus airspace could prevent other situations like that from occurring.”
Referring to the events on Sunday, he said that being in “Belarusian airspace is quite dangerous.”
On Wednesday, Lukashenko remained defiant and told parliament, without providing any evidence, that Roman Protasevich had been plotting a “bloody rebellion”.
He also accused the West of waging a “hybrid war” against him.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism