Father of Seized Journalist Fears Torture

Belarus airs video clip of Raman Pratasevich
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2021 5:01 AM CDT
Arrested Belarus Journalist Surfaces in Brief Video
In this handout photo released Monday by the Belarus Government press office, journalist Raman Pratasevich speaks to a camera in a prison in Minsk, Belarus.   (Belarus Government press office via AP)

The journalist at the center of an international controversy surfaced in a video clip that aired on state TV channels in Belarus on Monday, reports AFP. Raman Pratasevich speaks quickly in the video that the BBC says "appears to have been recorded under duress." The 26-year-old was seized over the weekend from a passenger jet that Belarus authorities rerouted to the capital of Minsk, rather than allowing to proceed to Lithuania as planned. In the video, Pratasevich says he is being treated humanely and has no health problems. "I continue cooperating with investigators and am confessing to having organized mass unrest in the city of Minsk." Pratasevich, who fled to Lithuania in 2019, has been a vocal opponent of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, whose government accuses him of fomenting unrest.

"We hope that he will cope," his father, Dmitri Pratasevich, tells the BBC. "We are afraid to even think about it, but it's possible he could be beaten and tortured. We are really afraid of that." Meanwhile, Belarus continues to be widely condemned for what Western critics have described as a state-sponsored hijacking. President Biden on Monday also weighed in, saying that "this outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press," per CNN. European airlines already have begun avoiding Belarus after the European Union quickly imposed sanctions on the country, reports the AP. (More Belarus stories.)

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