Belarus dissident’s ‘confession’ video suggests coercion and torture, experts and advocates say

Belarus dissident’s ‘confession’ video suggests coercion and torture, experts and advocates say”

In a statement, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) - the alliance's main political decision-making body composed of NATO ambassadors - condemned Sunday's forced diversion of the Ryanair flight to the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Belarus' exiled opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, says the diversion of the flight was a direct result of western democracies like Canada, not taking strong actions against President Alexander Lukashenko sooner.

"This investigation is being carried out, but we are also conducting strenuous activities. aimed at giving this investigation an global scope", he told a press conference on Wednesday.

He said the crew hesitated for so long that Belarusian authorities no longer expected the crew to turn back to Minsk, since the plane was already near the Lithuanian border, but they did.

Biden in his statement also expressed outrage over a video statement from Raman Pratasevich, who ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organize massive protests against Belarus authoritarian leader President Alexander Lukashenko, that aired on Belarusian state television Monday night. Those carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years, and some fear Protasevich could face more serious charges, including some that carry the death penalty.

European leaders have described Protasevich's arrest as a state-sponsored hijacking and kidnapping, and on Monday called on airlines not to fly over Belarus, while barring Belarusian airlines from EU airspace and airports.

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Lukashenko and his allies are under European and US sanctions over the violent crackdown on post-election protests that gripped the nation past year.

Belarus has a reputation for using intimidation and coercion to force confessions from political prisoners, as a 2018 report from the USA secretary of state on human rights abuses in the Eastern European nation noted.

"Our ill-wishers at home and overseas have changed their methods of attacking the state", Lukashenko said, accusing them of crossing "red lines" and "boundaries of common sense and human morality". "But this strategy is vitally important for the country", said Lukashenko, who sought to characterize the whole affair as a threat to Belarus' sovereignty. "That's why they switched from organizing riots to trying to strangle us". A senior DGCA official said: "Yes, we have also cautioned them (Indian carriers)".

Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko said that the country could halt Western cargo shipments via Belarus. The program is part of the EU's efforts to help Belarus and other ex-Soviet nations distance themselves from Moscow's influence and integrate into the West.

-- Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

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