Journalist from 'hijacked' Ryanair flight 'forced to admit and had nose broken'

Imprisoned dissident journalist Roman Protasevich’s father said he believed his son was forced to admit guilt in a video posted online and what appears to be a broken nose.

Lithuanian-based blogger and companion Sofia Sapega were both taken into custody after Belarus messed up a fighter plane to intercept a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius.

It was diverted to Minsk on Sunday in an action condemned by the European Union and the US.

Protasevich, 26, who appeared on multiple channels on the Telegram messaging app on Monday, admitted having played a role in organizing mass disruptions in Minsk over the past year.

For his father, Dzmitry Protasevich, the video appeared to be the result of coercion.

“It’s likely that his nose was broken because it changed shape and there was a lot of powder on it.

“The entire left side of his face has powder,” he told Reuters on Monday in a Russian interview from Wroclaw, Poland, where he and his wife live.

“It’s not his words, it’s not his intonation of the language. He’s very cautious and you can tell he’s nervous.

“And it’s not his pack of cigarettes on the table – he doesn’t smoke that. I think he was forced.”

He added, “My son cannot admit that he caused the crowd disturbance because he just didn’t do that.”

The Belarusian Interior Ministry said Mr. Protasevich was in prison and did not complain about illness.

The 27 heads of state and government of the European Union on Monday called for his immediate release and an investigation into the incident by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

A Ryanair plane on the ground

They also agreed to further sanctions Belarus, urged their airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace and approved work to ban Belarusian airlines from European skies and airports, a spokesman said.

The EU, along with the US, UK and Canada, had already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on nearly 90 Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko.

An election followed in August, which opponents and the West believed to be a deception. The president has denied election fraud.

Since the controversial vote, the authorities have rounded up thousands of his opponents, and all major opposition figures are now in prison or in exile.

Belarusians living in Poland and Poles who support them hold up a sign reading

“We are surprised that a person’s fate means a lot and that it is seen as valuable to the European Union,” said Dzmitry Protasevich. “This is something that is being lost in Belarus.”

“I think what happened was an act of revenge to enlighten others: see what we can do,” he said. “This is total madness, what’s going on.”

His exile social media feed has been one of the last independent news sources about the country since a massive crackdown on dissent last year.


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