Belarus puts activist’s girlfriend on trial after dramatic arrest | News

Sofia Sapega faces as much as six years in jail if convicted on seven legal prices that embody ‘inciting social hatred’.

The Russian girlfriend of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich has gone on trial in Minsk, months after their airplane was pressured to land within the Belarusian capital, based on Belarusian media.

Sofia Sapega, 24, was detained with Protasevich, 26, in Could final yr when their Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was grounded because it handed over Belarus. The information led to worldwide condemnation, with some European leaders calling the transfer a “hijacking”.

A court docket in Belarus on Monday began a closed-door trial in opposition to Sapega, who faces seven legal prices, together with “inciting social hatred” and “violence or threats” in opposition to police, opposition media outlet Zerkalo stated. Sapega faces as much as six years in jail.

After her arrest, Sapega cooperated with authorities and appealed to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for her launch.

Sofia Sapega poses for a picture in Gothenburg, Sweden
Sapega poses for an image in Gothenburg, Sweden [File: Stringer/Reuters]

Protasevich fled to Poland in 2019 from the place co-founded and edited the Poland-based on-line information service, Nexta, which broadcast footage of the mass protests through the Telegram messenger app.

With shut to 2 million subscribers on Telegram, Nexta Dwell and its sister channel Nexta performed a key position in steering and coordinating protesters in 2020, when web entry was typically blocked and unbiased media had been closely restricted.

After their arrests, each Protasevich and Sapega appeared in “confession” movies that their supporters stated had been recorded underneath duress and are a standard tactic of the regime to stress critics.

Protasevich stays underneath home arrest in Belarus awaiting trial. He faces as much as 15 years in jail if convicted.

In response to Protasevich and Sapega’s arrests, which led to worldwide outrage, Brussels final yr banned Belarusian state service Belavia from working flights to airports within the European Union and discouraged EU-based airways from flying over Belarus.

The EU and the US have imposed waves of sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies over the crackdown on the protests that noticed 1000’s arrested and studies of police brutality.

The US, EU, United Kingdom and Canada have joined forces to impose sweeping sanctions on a number of prime Belarusian officers.

The EU has additionally imposed a collection of bruising financial sanctions that focus on key Belarus exports, together with potash – a standard fertiliser ingredient – and petroleum merchandise.

Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich
Protasevich is seen in a pre-trial detention facility in Minsk final yr [File: Telegram@Zheltyeslivy/Reuters]

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