Raman Protasevich, a 28-year-old Belarusian opposition blogger arrested in 2021 after his Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk, was pardoned on Monday, the Belarusian state news agency BelTA reported.
Belarus sentences dissident journalist to eight years
“I have literally just signed all the relevant documents stating that I have been pardoned,” the agency quoted Protasevich as telling reporters. “This is, of course, great news.”
Earlier in May, he was sentenced to eight years in jail after being found guilty of a range of offenses including organizing mass disturbances, inciting acts of terrorism and slandering Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
He had worked as a journalist at the news outlet Nexta, which reported extensively on mass protests against Lukashenka in 2020 following a presidential election that the opposition and Western governments denounced as rigged.
A clampdown around the time of the election resulted in all significant opposition figures being jailed or driven into exile.
#Belarus Lukashenka pardoned Raman Pratasevich, the blogger arrested after the Ryanair plane was forced down in Minsk. Raman collaborated with the regime but was recently sentenced to 8 years. Lukashenka now wants to show mercy while 1525 political prisoners remain in jail. pic.twitter.com/lNc0LA6vzl
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) May 22, 2023
The circumstances of Protasevich’s arrest in May 2021 prompted international outrage and triggered European Union sanctions against Lukashenka.
On Sunday, the Polish Foreign Ministry appealed to Minsk to free all political prisoners.