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Guterres condemns arrest of Belarusian opposition journalist



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The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Monday said he was “deeply concerned” over the reported forced landing of a commercial passenger jet in Belarus and the subsequent detention of a prominent dissident journalist by authorities there.

Guterres, in a statement by his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric decried the manner in which Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian journalist was treated.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the apparent forced landing of a passenger aircraft over Belarus on Sunday and the subsequent detention of Protasevich, a Belarusian journalist on board.’’

The UN chief called for “a full, transparent and independent investigation into this disturbing incident” and urged all parties concerned to cooperate with the inquiry.

He said he remained “greatly concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus” in the aftermath of the elections.

“He urges the Belarusian authorities to fully respect all its international human rights obligations, including in relation to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.”

On Sunday, Roman Protasevich was flying on a Ryanair jet from Greece to Lithuania, where he has been reportedly living in exile since fleeing Belarus in 2019.

In the wake of the large-scale popular protests that erupted last August following the disputed presidential election, he was reportedly charged with inciting public disorder and social hatred by the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

According to news reports, the jet was forced to land in Belarus, by a Belarusian military jet, following which, Protasevich, together with his girlfriend, were arrested in Minsk, while three other passengers also left the plane.

Belarus reportedly said on Monday that a bomb threat had prompted them to divert the plane to Minsk, and the warplane had been sent to escort the jet to safety on the ground.

Many governments had issued condemnations over the incident, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Ukraine and the European Union leaders.

Cecilia Ologunagba

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