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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Televised Confession of Detained Belarus Activist Was Coerced, Household Says

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MOSCOW — Straight from jail and with bruises on his wrists, Roman Protasevich, the Belarusian opposition activist arrested final month, appeared on state tv on Thursday and confessed to having organized antigovernment protests — an interview that his household and supporters stated had been made below duress.

A tearful Mr. Protasevich appeared anxious and exhausted within the interview, which was carried out by the top of a Belarusian state tv station. He stated he “undoubtedly” revered the nation’s strongman chief, Aleskandr G. Lukashenko, earlier than lavishing reward on him.

Simply final month, Mr. Protasevich described the chief as “a dictator” and compared him to Hitler.

Mr. Protasevich, the previous editor of NEXTA, an opposition Telegram channel, has been held for practically two weeks in Belarusian prisons after the industrial flight he was touring on was compelled to land in Minsk.

Mr. Lukashenko scrambled a fighter jet to intercept the flight — a transfer that the worldwide neighborhood and leaders throughout Europe condemned — and Mr. Protasevich and his girlfriend have been spirited away by safety forces upon touchdown.

European leaders additionally condemned Mr. Protasevich’s interview. A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany referred to as the confession “utterly unworthy and implausible,” and Britain’s international minister, Dominic Raab, said on Twitter that “these concerned within the filming, coercion and path of the interview should be held accountable.”

Mr. Protasevich additionally stated within the interview he had organizing mass unauthorized rallies, a cost that carries as much as three years in jail. He stated that he had voluntarily determined to provide the interview, and that no make-up had been utilized to cover any traces of torture.

His obvious confession, which some observers likened to Stalin’s present trials of the Thirties, described the Belarusian opposition as worms dwelling luxurious existence in Lithuania and Poland on these international locations’ payroll. He additionally described his opposition colleagues as accomplices in his crimes and offered particular names.

Mr. Protasevich’s turnaround is just not uncommon in Mr. Lukashenko’s Belarus. A number of opposition activists and media figures have made related abrupt turns of their public statements after time spent in Belarusian prisons. Yuri Voskresensky, a former political prisoner, described his personal detention as “hell.”

Talking with TV Rain, an impartial Russian tv station, Mr. Protasevich’s father, Dmitri Protasevich, referred to as the interview “a propaganda video.”

“It is extremely exhausting for him to say these items, and I’m certain he was coerced and intimidated to take action,” he stated. “He has been below stress for greater than per week.”

Dmitri Protasevich stated that the Belarusian regulation enforcement might additionally apply stress on his son by way of his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who can be being held in a jail run by the Ok.G.B., the home safety service.

“She may be held within the cell subsequent to him,” he stated.

The circumstances inside such prisons are bleak, former detainees say. Yegor Dudnikov, a Russian citizen, was detained by the Belarusian regulation enforcement in early Could and has since been held within the Ok.G.B. jail. In a letter to his lawyer, he described having been subjected to beatings and torture in an effort to immediate a confession.

Mr. Dudnikov, who stated he was a technical specialist who helped opposition activists with movies, described having been coerced to make a press release to the state-run tv channel that interviewed Mr. Protasevich.

“On Could 25, they introduced me to a room the place they gave me solutions already ready by the tv crew,” he stated in a letter published by Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper. “They gave me time to be taught them by coronary heart — on Could 28, tv folks got here and made the recording.”

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