House arrest for Protasevich and girlfriend in Belarus

Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich is no longer in prison. He is under house arrest in a flat in Minsk, the father of Protasevich‘s girlfriend reports to the BBC. The Russian embassy confirms that the girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, has also been transferred to a rental apartment.

Sapega and Protasevich were on the plane forced into countries in Belarus on May 23. The plane was on its way from Greece to Lithuania when it was diverted to Minsk. This happened by order of the Belarusian authorities who talked about a bomb warning. At the airport, Protasevich and Sapega were arrested and transferred to the KGB prison in Minsk. The arrests led to major international outrage.

Improvement but no freedom

Sapega’s stepfather tells the BBC that his daughter has probably been in a flat in Belarus for two to three days. The news came as a surprise to him, because the families get virtually no information from the authorities. It‘s hard to comment because we don’t know what political game is being played.

The spokesman for Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya says that house arrest is an improvement over the prison where Sapega and Protasevich were stuck, but there is no question of freedom. The authorities did not drop the charges. It‘s a different type of prison, the KGB security guards are in the same room as him, the spokesperson writes on Twitter. The opposition also fears that Sapega and Protasevich will be used in negotiations with the EU on the sanctions imposed.

Before his arrest, Protasevich said he feared a possible death penalty because he would be on a Belarusian terrorist list. The journalist openly criticizes Aleksander Lukashenko’s regime, and is the founder of the Telegram channel Nexta.

The Protasevich channel played an important role in reporting about the large-scale protests against Lukashenko last year. Sapega and Protasevich have been arrested for being suspected by Belarus of inciting hatred and unrest and organizing and participating in disturbances. Both can be given 12 to 15 years in jail.

Nieuwsuur spoke to relatives of prisoners in Belarus to find out how their loved ones in prison perished. Please note, the images and stories can be perceived as shocking: