Journalist Raman Pratasevich could face the death penalty after Belarusian authorities forced his plane to land in Minsk. A passenger on the flight described Pratasevich
A witness told Belarusian Radio Free Europe on Sunday that Raman Pratasevich, 26, and the Belarusian national were “disturbed” when he learned that his Ryan Air plane had accidentally landed in Minsk.
“After the plane went off, a man (Pratasevich) started panicking and grabbed his head,” the source said while another passenger was on board.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered the interception of a MiG-29 fighter jet and intercepted a Ryan Air plane for alleged bomb fears, pro-government media reported. No bombs were found on the plane.
Instead, Belarusian authorities arrested Pratasevich, an exiled journalist traveling from Greece to Lithuania. Pratasevich faces criminal charges in Belarus, including inciting hatred against the government. It was also on the national list of “individuals involved in terrorist activities.” The Belarusian opposition leader says he could face the death penalty in his country.
Journalist’s suitcase ‘thrown’ at track
When they landed in Minsk, security forces evicted the passengers and asked a team of tracking dogs to inspect their belongings, the passenger told Radio Free Europe.
Pratasevich’s suitcase was “thrown from the gang” and he was dropped off.
“We asked him what happened,” he told us, adding: “The death penalty awaits me here. I was a little calm, but I was shaking.
He was eventually taken over by the army, according to the source.
Pratasevich was the editor-in-chief of the opposition news agency NEXTA, which Belarusian authorities call extremism.
Pratasevich reckons he is being pursued in Athens
In a separate interview with Deutsche, Vernak said Pratasevich called him before boarding and told him he suspected someone was following him.
“I called Raman this morning. He (with me) shared his concerns about the pursuit at Athens airport,” he said.
NEXTA also shared a text message from Athens Pratasevich describing a Russian-speaking suspect who appeared to be trying to take a photo of his travel documents.