Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protasevich gave a tearful interview to the country’s state media last Thursday. In it, he acknowledged organizing anti-government protests and praised President Alexander Lukashenko. A report by the news agency Reuters has given this information.
Belarusian authorities diverted a flight from Greece to Lithuania to arrest the journalist, who was critical of the government. Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sophia Safeza, 23, were later arrested.
But Protasevich’s family and the country’s activists say Protasevich was forced to accept the interview.
The 26-year-old journalist was the editor of the opposition’s Nexta channel on the messaging app Telegram.
Alexander Lukashenko, an eight-year-old who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has been cracking down on dissidents and critics since the August election. Many opposition leaders have been arrested. In addition, many have migrated abroad. Nexta media played a major role in that election and its aftermath for Belarus’s opposition. Their news was published on the Telegram channel as well as on Twitter and YouTube.
In an interview published on Belarus’ state television channel ONT on Thursday evening, Protasevich was seen feeling unwell. At the end of the one-and-a-half-hour interview, Protasevich wept and covered his face with his hands.
His father said, ‘I know my son, he will never say such a thing.
They broke him down and forced him to say what he needed.
“I know my son, he will never talk like that,” said his father, Dmitry Protasevich.
He added that the video was captured with abuse, torture and threats. He was beaten and forced to speak as they needed to.
“I’m very worried,” Dimitri said.
Belarusian authorities have accused Roman Protasevich of plotting to overthrow the government. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
Roman’s parents also said that he looked like he had been tortured in the video.
Belarussian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s adviser, Frank Vyachokra, said it was difficult to see Protasevich’s confession. Frank also referred to him as a ‘government hostage’.