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Belarusian opposition journalist and girlfriend moved to house arrest

By
Zarrin Ahmed
Belarus opposition activist and journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who were detained last month, were moved from a detention facility to house arrest Friday. EPA-EFE/STRINGER
Belarus opposition activist and journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who were detained last month, were moved from a detention facility to house arrest Friday. EPA-EFE/STRINGER

June 25 (UPI) -- Belarusian opposition activist and journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who were detained last month, were moved from a detention facility to house arrest Friday.

Protasevich, 26, is now in an apartment in Minsk, his father Dmitri Protasevich told BBC Russia. He faces charges that include organizing mass unrest, for which he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Sapega, 23, is also accused of causing unrest.

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The pair were reportedly "consistently confessing" their guilt to an investigative committee, which granted their request to be released. They are in separate flats and have been held on remand.

Belarus' opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said the house arrest was an improvement, but not the end of the story.

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"House arrest is not freedom, they're still facing charges, their every step is still being watched. It means they're still hostages," she said.

The two were captured dramatically on May 23 when Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko ordered a Ryanair plane carrying the pair to divert from its route under the pretext of a security alert.

Once the plane landed, Protasevich and Sapega were arrested. The European Union has since responded to the arrests.

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"The European Union, along with our like-minded partners, continues to demand their immediate, unconditional release," EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali said Friday. "They must also be able to travel to the original destination of the journey they took on board of the flight between Athens and Vilnius."

A United Nations Human Rights Commission official stated that the Lukashenko regime's hijacking of a commercial airliner with intent to "abduct" a journalist on board represents a "new phase" in its crackdown on civil society.

Earlier this month, the EU banned Belarusian airlines from airspace and airports in member countries in response to the diversion. EU ambassadors agreed to the ban, which prevents Belarusian airlines from landing in or taking off from EU airports.

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