Roman Protasevich, the journalist detained in Belarus after the diversion of the plane in which he was traveling, appeared on state television in that country this Thursday in an interview in which he tearfully confesses his role in the anti-government protests and asks “forgiveness” for it . The opposition to the Belarusian regime and the informant’s family believe that the journalist made these statements “under duress” and that he could even have been tortured by the authorities of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s autocratic regime.
Since the plane in which he was traveling was forced to make a forced landing in Minsk, the capital of that country, on May 23, the Belarusian authorities have released three recordings of the journalist. In this Thursday’s one and a half hours, Protasevich admits to having conspired to organize “riots” in order to overthrow Lukashenko and retracts his previous criticisms of the president of his country. “I criticized Alexander Grigorievich a lot [Lukashenko], but when I got more involved in political issues, I began to understand that I was doing the right thing and I certainly respect that, “he says about the Belarusian leader at one point in the interview.
In the video, which clearly shows what appear to be handcuff marks on his wrists, Protasevich claims to speak of his own free will. “I am almost certain that they will condemn me publicly and that the support rallies will come to nothing,” he asserts, referring to the protests against his arrest led by the Belarusian opposition and activists. “But I don’t care what they say,” he continues, and then concludes: “I immediately admitted my guilt in organizing unauthorized demonstrations.”
Belarusian state television broadcast another interview at the end of May, this time with Protasevich’s partner, the Russian citizen Sofía Sapega, in which the 23-year-old also confessed “coerced”, according to the Belarusian opposition.
“Hostage of the regime”
Franak Viacorka, senior adviser to exiled Belarusian opposition member Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said Thursday that he found it “painful to see Roman Protasevich’s ‘confessions’.” “His parents believe that he was tortured. This is not the Roman that I know, “he said. The journalist, Viacorka wrote on his Twitter account, “is a hostage of the regime and we must do everything possible to free him and the other 460 political prisoners.”
Tsikhanouskaya had already denounced on May 31 that he believed that Protasevich – whom the Belarusian regime had so far defined as an “extremist” who incited violence – had been beaten and tortured in prison. However, a lawyer who visited the journalist stated that he was “fine.” The Belarusian regime has yet to comment on the opposition accusations.
Western countries and various international human rights organizations have shamed the Belarusian government by the forced landing of the plane and the arrest of the journalist and his partner. After the diversion of the device to the Minsk airport, the European Union expanded the list of those punished by the Lukashenko regime, a list that already included several senior officials for the repression of protests after last year’s elections, contested by the opposition who reported massive fraud. The EU also banned the country’s airlines from operating in European airspace.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.