Roman Protasevich: Belarus journalist’s confession was forced  says family

World

The family of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich says he was coerced into making a confession on TV of organising anti-government protests.

26-year-old Protasevich was arrested in Minsk last month after his flight to Lithuania was diverted.

He appeared on state TV, tearful, praising President Alexander Lukashenko and admitted attempting to topple him.

There were visible marks on his wrists. Human rights and opposition campaigners say he was tortured.

Protasevich was editor of the opposition Nexta channel on the Telegram messaging app until last year.

The Belarus government put him in a list of “individuals involved in terrorist activity”.

Mass protests have erupted across Belarus following Lukashenko claiming victory in a 9 August presidential election widely condemned as rigged, which was followed by a crackdown.

The protests have been curbed and opposition leaders have been sent to prison or into exile.

In the interview broadcast on Thursday evening, Protasevich admitted to attempting to topple Lukashenko and that he was speaking to the television channel by choice.

He further said he criticised President Lukashenko a lot but “began to understand that he was doing the right thing and I certainly respect him”.

At the end of the interview, he burst into tears and said he hoped one day to marry and have children.

His father said it pained him to watch the interview.

“I know my son very well and I believe that he would never say such things. They broke him and forced him to say what was needed,” he said.

“No one should believe these words [from Protasevich’s interview] because they were beaten out, through abuse and torture of my son.

“In the 21st Century, in the middle of Europe, he was kidnapped off a flight – it’s an act of state terrorism. They abuse and torture him, and use him in their political games.”

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the video was evidence of “brutality” by the security forces.

“It should be Exhibit A in a prosecution for torture and ill treatment under President Lukashenko,” said HRW director Kenneth Roth.

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