Free Roman Protasevich: World must unite against Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko to save opposition blogger – Steve Cardownie

Some 25 years ago I drove from Edinburgh to Minsk, Belarus and returned on a few occasions after that. I was struck by just how much the state was prepared to abuse its power to subjugate its citizens and, given recent events, it is apparent that nothing has changed.

Belarus police detain journalist Roman Protasevich in Minsk, Belarus, in 2017 (Picture: Sergei Grits/AP)

Alexander Lukashenko’s actions in forcing Ryanair flight FR4978 to land at Minsk so that the Belarussian authorities could arrest opposition blogger Roman Protasevich and his Russian partner Sofia Sapega speaks volumes.

Protasevich subsequently appeared in a video from jail in which he denied reports that he had suffered health problems since his arrest.

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In the video, he said: “I can declare that I have no problems with my health, either with my heart or any other organs. Police officers are treating me absolutely correctly and according to law. I’m currently continuing to co-operate with the investigation and am giving a confession to the organisation of mass unrest in the city of Minsk.”

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His father said that the video seemed to be a result of coercion, contending that his son’s nose appeared to be broken and that all of the left side of his face was covered in powder to camouflage bruising. He said: “My son cannot admit to creating the mass disorders, because he didn’t do any such thing.”

Given Lukashenko’s record, nothing short of a mass campaign both inside and outside of Belarus will potentially secure the release of Protasevich. I say potentially because this president is a law unto himself and who knows what he might do next.

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