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Belarus Charges Sofia Sapega With Incitement

Belarusian prosecutors have filed charges against Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, who was arrested along with her boyfriend, opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich, after authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered a passenger plane they were on diverted as it flew over the country's airspace.
Sapega has been charged with “inciting hatred” for administering a Telegram channel that published the personal data of security forces, which have led a crackdown on the country’s pro-democracy movement, civil society, and independent media, the BBC’s Russian Service reported on December 5. If convicted, Sapega could face up to six years in prison. Sapega, a Russian citizen who lived most of her life in Belarus, and Pratasevich, who is Belarusian, were arrested on May 23 when Belarus scrambled a military jet to escort a Ryanair passenger flight over its airspace to land in Minsk. Many countries regarded the diversion as a "state hijacking." After the plane landed, law enforcement immediately arrested the two, who were flying from Athens to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. They were later put under house arrest. Pratasevich faces charges of being behind civil disturbances that followed a disputed presidential election in August 2020, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison. He was a key administrator of the Telegram channel Nexta-Live, which had been covering mass protests denouncing the official results of the election. The charges against Sapega were previously less clear. Belarusian authorities earlier released a video of Sapega, a law student studying for her master's degree in Vilnius, where she says that she edits Black Book of Belarus -- a Telegram channel which has published the personal information of security officials. Belarus has classified the channel as an extremist group. But critics say she made the statement under duress. Lukashenka's regime has been under international pressure since it launched a brutal crackdown in the wake of the disputed election. The opposition says the election was rigged, while the EU, the United States, and other countries have refused to recognize the official results of the vote and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader. The United States, the European Union, Britain, and Canada have slapped several rounds of coordinated sanctions on Belarus.


With reporting by BBC Russian Service

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