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Detained Belarus activist’s father says confession in new video was forced

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The father of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was detained by Belarusian officials after they forced the plane he was on to land, said he believes his son was forced to admit guilt in a recently released video.

In a video that appeared on several channels of the Telegram messaging app Monday, Protasevich, 26, acknowledged playing a role in organizing mass disturbances in Belarus’s capital city of Minsk, Reuters reports.

However, his father Dzmitry Protasevich said he believes his son was coerced and said it looked as though his nose had been broken.

“It’s likely his nose is broken, because the shape of it has changed and there’s a lot of powder on it. All of the left side of his face has powder,” the older Protasevich told Reuters on Monday, speaking from Poland where his son had been working prior to his plane being forcibly landed in Minsk by a Belarus fighter jet.

“It’s not his words, it’s not his intonation of speech. He is acting very reserved and you can see he is nervous,” Protasevich said. “And it’s not his pack of cigarettes on the table – he doesn’t smoke these. So I think he was forced.”

“My son cannot admit to creating the mass disorders, because he just didn’t do any such thing,” he added.

Roman Protasevich is a co-founder and former editor of NEXTA Telegram channel, which has become popular among opponents of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to share information and organize demonstrations. He had been traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania, after attending an economic forum with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya when the plane he was on was intercepted, The New York Times reports.

Multiple Western countries have condemned the actions of Lukashenko. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the “immediate release” of Protasevich, vowing to stand with Western allies in responding to Lukashenko’s actions which have been called a “hijacking.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen joined in the calls for Protasevich’s release, warning that the “outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences,” and threatening against the country’s authoritarian government.

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