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Parents Of Belarusian Journalist Arrested On Plane Question Video About Their Son

Raman Pratasevich smokes a cigarette while speaking in a video from a detention center in Minsk, broadcast by the state-controlled ONT channel on June 2. "I have noticed handcuff marks on his hands," his mother says.
Raman Pratasevich smokes a cigarette while speaking in a video from a detention center in Minsk, broadcast by the state-controlled ONT channel on June 2. "I have noticed handcuff marks on his hands," his mother says.

The parents of journalist Raman Pratasevich, who was arrested after Belarus dispatched a fighter jet to intercept a Ryanair commercial flight on May 23 and force it to land in Minsk, say the latest recording of their son broadcast by state TV was apparently ordered by the government, like the previous ones.

Dzmitry and Natallya Pratasevich told Current Time on June 3 that by broadcasting the video, the authorities tried "to justify taking hostage" their son and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a Russian national.

"I have noticed handcuff marks on his hands. In addition, all parts of the film are of a very high resolution and quality, but when Raman is shown, the footage showing his face appears to be edited. I wonder if it was done to hide bruises on his face and on his nose, and strangulation marks on his neck, that were noticeable on another video shown last week," Natallya Pratasevich said.

Raman Pratasevich, 26, is facing charges of being behind civil disturbances that followed disputed presidential election in August last year, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

"I have questions for those who made the recording. Tell me please, how about the investigatory privilege? If the investigation is under way, how come then all of this data [related to the probe] is made public?" Natallya Pratasevich said.

RFE/RL has decided not to publish or link to any of the videos showing Pratasevich.

According to the journalist's parents, lawyers have not been allowed to meet with their son although the attorneys have been told that they could meet their client between May 31-June 2.

"Maybe lawyers were not allowed to meet him because the film was being made at that exact time. Also, we have not received any response to our request to allow independent physicians to examine Raman," Natallya Pratasevich said.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

Authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka publicly said that Raman Pratasevich was also suspected by Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine's east of fighting against them, adding that he will invite the separatists to interrogate the journalist.

Separatists in Ukraine's Luhansk region launched an investigation into Pratasevich on May 27, four days after his arrest in Minsk. Dzmitry Pratasevich said the separatists' accusations against his son were trumped up.

"They do not allow lawyers to see our son, but in the meantime they broadcast propaganda videos on public television, violating all possible norms of investigation. We do not know when exactly Raman's statements used in those videos were made, while it is apparent that the videos and films were fabricated using different footage recorded at different times," Dzmitry Pratasevich said.

Raman Pratasevich was a key administrator of the Telegram channel Nexta-Live, which has been covering the mass protests against the official results of the presidential poll that handed Lukashenka a sixth presidential term since 1994.

Security forces have arrested more than 30,000 people, including dozens of journalists who covered the rallies.

The plane forced by Belarusian authorities to land in Minsk on May 23 to arrest Pratasevich and his girlfriend was flying over Belarus from Athens to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

The move sparked international outrage and demands for Pratasevich's release. The European Union banned flights from Belarus after the incident.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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