Tearful 'Confession' By Belarusian Journalist Sparks Fresh Outcry Over His Treatment.

MINSK -- A new video featuring Raman Pratasevich, who was arrested after a fighter jet intercepted a Ryanair flight on May 23 and forced it to land in Minsk, has sparked a fresh outcry, with the opposition and the parents of the Belarusian journalist saying the recording was made under duress.

On the Nothing Personal program on the ONT state television channel late on June 3, a tearful Pratasevich praised Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka and said he "immediately confessed to organizing mass disorder" after his arrest.

Pratasevich is a former key administrator of the Telegram channel Nexta-Live, which has been covering the mass protests denouncing the official results of the August presidential poll that handed Lukashenka a sixth presidential term since 1994.

It is not clear where and when the conversation was recorded, as the "interview" -- which resembled a Soviet-style propaganda broadcast -- was shot in a dark room.

'I understood that calls I made publicly added to the situation that led to actual uncontrolled disorder in the streets. And, in fact, Minsk lived in chaos for three days then," Pratasevich said, adding that he "respects" Lukashenka.

At the end of the 90-minute interview, Pratasevich began crying and covered his face with his hands. (RFE/RL has decided not to publish or link to any of the videos showing Pratasevich.)

The video is the result of "abuse, torture, and threats," said Pratasevich's father, Dzmitry.

"It's painful to see 'confessions' of Raman Pratasevich. His parents believe he was tortured. This is not Raman I know," tweeted Franak Vyachorka, a senior adviser to exiled opposition figure Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Tsikhanouskaya said on May 31 that she believed Pratasevich had been beaten and tortured in prison.

Hours before the broadcast, Pratasevich's parents, Dzmitry and Natallya, told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL, that previous videos showing their son's "confessions" that have appeared on state television in recent days were "attempts by the authorities to justify taking hostage" their son and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a Russian national.

Pratasevich's parents said they believe the videos show bruises on their son's face and strangulation marks on his neck, signs proving that his "confessions" were made under duress.

Many Belarusian opposition activists and rights defenders in the former Soviet republic believe that Pratasevich's statements were coerced and that his girlfriend's arrest was carried out to put additional pressure on him.

Pratasevich, 26, is facing charges of being behind civil disturbances that followed the disputed presidential election in August, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Belarusian security forces have arrested more than 30,000 people, including dozens of journalists who covered the rallies that erupted after Lukashenka was announced the winner.

The plane forced by Belarusian authorities to land in Minsk on May 23 to arrest Pratasevich and his girlfriend was flying from Athens to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, over Belarusian airspace.

The move sparked international outrage and demands for Pratasevich's release. The European Union banned flights from Belarus after the incident.

Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

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