(Moscow) The Belarusian Prosecutor’s Office has requested up to 20 years in prison for the founders of the opposition media Nexta, which played a key role in mobilizing the 2020 protest movement for power, an official reported on Friday. NGO.
Three people are accused in this emblematic case of repression in Belarus: Stepan Poutilo, co-founder of the channel broadcast on YouTube and Telegram, and two other journalists, Ian Roudik and Roman Protassevitch.
If MM. Poutilo and Roudik are in exile and therefore tried in absentia, Roman Protassevitch, the former editor-in-chief of Nexta, was arrested in 2021 after the airliner he was on board was intercepted while flying over Belarus.
According to the human rights organization Viasna, prosecutor Natalia Sokolova requested 20 years in prison for Stepan Poutilo, 19 years for Ian Roudik and 10 years for Roman Protassevitch.
They are respectively 24, 29 and 27 years old.
All three face a slew of charges including “deliberate actions to incite hatred”, “defamation” or “mass unrest”, according to Viasna, whose imprisoned founder Ales Bialiatski is a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Peace 2022.
Nexta played a key role in mobilizing the historic protest movement against the August 2020 re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, which led to it being banned and classified as a “terrorist organization” by the Belarusian Supreme Court.
Journalist and opposition activist Roman Protassevich was arrested on May 23, 2021 with his partner Sofia Sapega when their Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was intercepted by a Belarusian fighter jet, sparking international outcry and sanctions.
After his arrest, Mr. Protassevich agreed to cooperate with the investigation and repeatedly claimed to repent, in videos broadcast by Belarusian public television, recorded “under duress” according to the Belarusian opposition.
He has been under house arrest since June 2021 while Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen, was sentenced to six years in prison.
“Protasevich has respected the terms of the cooperation agreement concluded with him. Therefore, the accused will receive less than he could,” prosecutor Natalia Sokolova told Belarusian television.
According to Viasna, the judge demanded that the ex-journalist be immediately remanded in custody.
The Nexta media reported on Friday the prosecution’s requisitions against Mr. Poutilo, without mentioning his co-defendants.