Detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich says he pleaded guilty to criminal charges of inciting protests in Belarus
Detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich has “pleaded fully guilty” to criminal charges of organizing and preparing actions that disrupted public order in Belarus. This was stated by Protasevich himself during an interview broadcast on the Belarusian state television channel ONT on June 3.
“I openly admit that I was one of the people who published calls to take to the streets on [August] ninth. As soon as I was presented with the documents and charged, I pleaded guilty immediately, under article 342 of the [Belarusian] Criminal Code, that’s the organization of large-scale unsanctioned protests. I don’t remember the details there, but it’s something like that. And I later recognized that the calls that I published, among other things, resulted in uncontrolled riots beginning in the streets. And essentially, for three days, Minsk lived in chaos.”
Roman Protasevich was arrested in Minsk on May 23, after the Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair flight travelling from Athens to Vilnius to make an emergency landing. The plane was diverted to the Minsk Airport after the Belarusian authorities informed the flight crew of an alleged bomb threat (this later proved false). Protasevich’s girlfriend, 23-year-old Russian national Sofia Sapega, was arrested along with him.
Protasevich is the former editor-in-chief of the Telegram channel Nexta, one of the most popular opposition outlets in Belarus. He stands accused of organizing mass disturbances that grossly violated public order and of inciting social enmity. According to media reports, Sofia Sapega is suspected of similar crimes, though the Belarusian authorities have yet to disclose the charges against her.