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G7, European Union condemn Belarus over journalist detention

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Lukashenko defends plane diversion, says Belarus acted ‘lawfully’

The call for action against Lukashenko follows the detention of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich on Sunday after his plane was ordered to land in the Belarusian capital of Minsk while it was crossing through the country's airspace.

All involved countries should take part in the investigation, namely Ireland, where Ryanair is headquartered, Greece, and Lithuania, as respectively the country of origin and destination of the flight, Poland where the aircraft is registered, and obviously, Belarus, whose own report was already transmitted to the ICAO.

Observers will watch the negotiations to see how far Russian Federation goes to support Lukashenko's regime after Belarus scrambled a Mig jet to divert a Ryanair jet and arrest an opposition journalist onboard last Sunday.

The ICAO, of which Belarus is a member state, said on Monday that it was "strongly concerned by the apparent forced landing". We join our global partners in wanting to know the full circumstances that led up to this grave violation of worldwide law and the attack on the principles that underpin civil aviation.

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council announced Thursday it was launching an investigation, amid calls for Belarus to be banned from international air agencies.

Its main goal is to put in place Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which are used by the organisation to set an acceptable expected baseline in order to ensure safe, secure and environmentally sustainable global civil aviation.

Lukashenko claims that the flight was diverted because of a bomb threat, saying the threat had originated in Switzerland, allegations that Swiss authorities refute.

Once the plane landed, Protasevich - the 26-year-old co-founder of opposition Telegram channel Nexta that coordinated protests last year against Lukashenko - and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested.

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Friday urged the European Union to be "braver" and impose more sanctions against the Minsk regime.

However EU countries are banning Belarusian carriers and the EU has also urged airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

The ICAO has no power to impose sanctions.

He appeared in a video on Monday in which he confessed to helping to organise mass unrest, a charge that could land him in jail for 15 years.

At a press conference in Warsaw, Dmitry Protasevich said his son has been denied access to independent lawyers and doctors.

"Now we have to be stronger, braver, and the European Union has to be stronger, braver in its resolutions and its decisions", the exiled Belarusian opposition chief told reporters.

"We think that he may be in hospital", he told AFP.

"The contracting States recognize that every State must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of aircraft must not be endangered".

The statement says the officials "condemn in the strongest terms the unprecedented action by the Belarusian authorities". The UN Security Council is set to meet behind closed doors later on Wednesday.

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