Woman forced to land in Belarus gets 6 years in prison

A woman who ran a Belarusian opposition messaging app channel and was arrested with her activist boyfriend when a jetliner they were on was forced to land in Belarus has been found guilty of charges including incitement to social hatred

LVIV, Ukraine – A woman who ran a chain of Belarusian opposition messaging apps and was arrested along with her activist boyfriend when an airliner they were on was forced to land in Belarus. found guilty on Friday of charges of incitement to social hatred.

Following her conviction, Sophia Sapega was sentenced to six years in prison. Sapega is a Russian citizen and her lawyer, Anton Gashinsky, said she would appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene.

Sapega and Raman Pratasevich were flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania a year ago when their plane was ordered to land in Belarus accompanied by a fighter jet due to an alleged bomb threat .

Pratasevich was the editor of Nexta, a popular messaging app Telegram that was a key factor in organizing protests in Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko won a contested sixth term in August 2020.

Sapega ran another Telegram channel which published the personal data of civil servants and military personnel who took part in the massive crackdown on protests.

Western countries have denounced the hijacking as tantamount to hijacking by Belarus. The European Union has banned Belarusian airlines from its airspace and airports as part of sanctions against the country.

The post-election protests have been the most serious challenge to Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule since he took office in 1994.

Protests drew up to 200,000 people to Belarus’ capital on some days and persisted for several months. Authorities responded with a harsh crackdown in which police arrested more than 35,000 people and beat thousands. Prominent opposition figures have been imprisoned or forced into exile.

ABC News

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