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UN condemns arrest of journalist after Belarus forced down plane

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The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres has expressed concern over the forced landing of a commercial aircraft in Belarus and the detention of a dissident journalist, Roman Protasevich.

In a statement by his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief condemned the manner Protasevich was treated.

Guterres called for “a full, transparent and independent investigation into this disturbing incident” and urged all parties to cooperate with the inquiry.

Guterres said he remained concerned by “the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus” since the elections.

He urged the Belarusian authorities to respect international human rights obligations, including in relation to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.

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Protasevich has been living in exile since 2019. He was flying with his girlfriend on a Ryanair plane from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday when a military jet ordered landing.

The Belarusian authorities reportedly said on Monday that a bomb threat prompted them to divert the plane to Minsk.

After the August 2020 protest following the disputed presidential election, Protasevich was charged with inciting public disorder against the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

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The United States, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Ukraine and the European Union have chastised Belarus.

In a video, Protasevich said he was arrested by officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the airport in Minsk.

He added that the attitude of employees towards him “is as correct as possible and according to the law.

“I continue cooperating with investigators and am confessing to having organised mass unrest in the city of Minsk.”

The footage was released after the opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya warned there was a “high probability” Protasevich was being tortured.

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“We are really afraid not only for his freedom, but for his life. We do not know where he is and in what condition”, the exiled Ms Tikhanouskaya said.

The EU is set to announce new sanctions against Belarus that will include a ban on the use of the 27-nation bloc’s airspace and airports.

The members want Protasevich released and have called for a probe from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

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