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Forced Ryanair landing: US charges four Belarusian officials with 'conspiracy to commit air piracy'


Dictator Lukashenko diverted a Ryanair flight to arrest opposition leader Roman Protassevich. Now the United States is indicting four Belarusian government officials – they face life imprisonment.

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"Free Roman Protasevich": A picture of the arrested blogger at a demonstration in Ireland in May 2021

Photo: Niall Carson / dpa

Eight months after a Ryanair plane carrying blogger Roman Protasevich was forced to land in Minsk, four Belarusian officials have been charged in the US.

The New York prosecutor's office announced on Thursday (local time) that the accused were accused of "conspiracy to engage in air piracy" because of the diversion of Ryanair flight 4978 last May.

The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

The aim of the crime was the arrest of the Belarusian government critic Protasevich, according to a statement from the authority.

The US would work with foreign partners to bring the accused to justice.

The accused continued to be in Belarus, said US Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan.

They are the general director of the state company Belaeronavigatsia responsible for air traffic control, his deputy and two employees of the Belarusian security services.

Four US citizens were among the passengers.

The authorities in Belarus had forced a Ryanair passenger plane en route from Athens to Vilnius with a fighter jet to stopover in Minsk in May last year.

The forced landing was justified with a bomb threat.

According to the New York public prosecutor's office, this fictitious bomb threat also went back to the accused.

Among the more than 100 passengers on board were blogger Roman Protasevich, co-founder of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta, and his Russian-born girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

Both were arrested after landing.

The procedure had triggered sharp international criticism of Belarus.

The EU, Great Britain and the USA imposed further sanctions on the regime of ruler Alexander Lukashenko.


Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2022-01-21

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