Arrested at Ryanair landing: critic Lukashenko asks for clemency in custody

Arrested upon landing of Ryanair
Lukashenko critic asks for clemency in custody

In May 2021, Sofia Sabiga was arrested in a stunt in Minsk. Russian critic of Belarus Governor Alexander Lukashenko. Now Sabiga pleads for mercy and admits “stupidity”. The circumstances in which penance is to be carried out are questionable.

In Belarus, a prominent government critic asked Governor Alexander Lukashenko for pardon after a year in prison. Russian-born Sofia Sabiga was arrested in May last year when a European passenger plane was forced to land in Minsk.

According to a report by the BBC’s Russian Language Service, she wrote in a request for clemency that her dissenting activism was due to “youth and stupidity”. Meanwhile, “I fully understood the illegality and illegality of it.” It remained unclear what circumstances the letter was written in while in detention. The judiciary in the authoritarian country sentenced Sabiga to six years in prison in May for running an opposition channel on the Telegram messenger service.

Her arrest – along with her then partner Roman Protasewicz – caused an international outcry. The two were on a flight within Europe in a Ryanair plane that was forced to land over Belarusian territory. Therefore, the European Union imposed an airspace embargo on Belarus.

Protasevich, the former editor-in-chief of opposition news channel Nexta, had withdrawn his criticisms of long-ruling Lukashenko from prison and apologized. Observers attribute the supposed change in the situation to tremendous pressure from the authorities. Lukashenko was elected president for the sixth time in the summer of 2020, which led to nationwide protests. The elections were not recognized internationally due to suspicion of tampering.

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