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Belarus moves detained journalist Protasevich to house arrest, opposition says

·2-min read

Belarus's opposition-in-exile said Friday dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was dramatically detained after his plane was forced to land in Minsk, has been moved to house arrest.

Protasevich, 26, was arrested in May along with his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23, when Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet to intercept their Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania as it passed over Belarus.

They are accused of helping to coordinate historic anti-government protests last year, which erupted after strongman President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in an August vote the opposition and Western leaders said was rigged.

On Friday, an advisor to exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said that he had spoken with Protasevich's parents, who told him their son had been moved to house arrest.

"But it's not freedom. It is a prison of different type. KGB people live in the same room with him," tweeted Franak Viacorka, referring to Belarus's national intelligence agency.

The comments confirmed an earlier report by the BBC's Russian service, which cited Protasevich's father Dmitry as saying that his son had been moved to house arrest.

The BBC also reported that Sapega had likewise been moved to house arrest. Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti confirmed the move, citing the Russian embassy in Belarus and her family's lawyer respectively.

Tikhanovskya, who is in exile in EU member state Lithuania, described the development as "good news" but added on her Telegram channel that the pair is "still being held hostage."

In response to Protasevich and Sapega's arrests, the European Union banned Belarusian state carrier Belavia from operating flights to airports in the 27-nation bloc and discouraged EU-based airlines from flying over the ex-Soviet country.

It also imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Belarus economy.

After their arrests, both Protasevich and Sapega appeared in "confession" videos that their supporters said were recorded under duress and are a common tactic of the regime to pressure critics.

(AFP)

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