World Media

Father Of Arrested Belarus Blogger Says Son "Physically Harmed"

Belarus plane

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is looking at further sanctions against Belarus in response to its arrest of a journalist over the weekend, just as the autocratic regime announced that it is closing its embassy in Ottawa.

Belarus's regime was increasingly isolated on Tuesday as Europe cut air links and calls grew for stronger action over its diversion of an airliner and arrest of a dissident on board.

Belarusian planes also faced a possible ban from flying to European Union cities, which could leave landlocked Belarus only able to reach its territory via its eastern border with its close ally Russian Federation.

Belarusian state television on Monday aired a video of Protasevich, seen for the first time since his arrest.

"My treatment from officers has been maximally correct and according to the law".

The detained journalist's demeanor in the video alarmed his father, Dzmitry, who told Reuters that his son's nose appeared to have been broken, "because the shape of it is changed", and that his remarks were out of character. Protasevich in the video denied he was suffering from any health problems. A Belarusian Mig-29 fighter jet was also dispatched to escort the flight.

He said it was "very hard to believe" the seizure of Mr Protasevich from the flight could have taken place "without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow".

The plane was eventually allowed to depart, leaving behind Protasevich and Sepega, and also three others, who European officials have said they suspect were Belarusian security agents.

"Most leaders of Belarus' political parties have been either jailed or forced to flee the country", said Ales Bialiatski, head of the Viasna human rights centre. "It's clear that he was reading something out that he was told to read out", he said.

"We, the Soldiers of Hamas, demand Israel cease fire in the Gaza Strip", the message read by Sikorsky began, going on to demand the European Union stop supporting Israel.

They demanded Pratasevich's release and urged European carriers to avoid Belarus' airspace.

Mr Protasevich's Nexta Live channel on the Telegram instant messaging app is charged with playing a leading role in co-ordinating the attempted ouster of Mr Lukashenko.

Even as the West condemned Belarus, the crackdown continued Tuesday, when Pavel Seviarynets, the leader of the opposition Christian-Democratic Party, was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of organizing mass riots.

Sofia, a Russian citizen, is in the final year of global law studies at the European Humanities University in Vilnius. She later said that her family had faced threats.

"All I can say is the behavior of the Belarus regime does not lend itself to think that in any way this statement was offered voluntarily", Therese Coffey, a British government minister, told Sky News on Tuesday. I really hope that the global community will stand up. "It's very hard for me", she said, her voice cracking.

On Monday night Pete Buttigieg, the United States secretary of transportation, said in a statement: "We strongly condemn the actions the Belarusian government took to force the diversion of a Ryanair flight for the apparent objective of arresting journalist Roman Pratasevich. A free press is essential to a functioning democracy, and the United States has called for his immediate release".