U.S. charges Belarus officials with aircraft piracy over flight diversion

THE U.S.A has charged four Belarus officials with aircraft piracy over an unplanned flight diversion.

Belarus authorities diverted a Ryanair flight last May to arrest a dissident journalist who was on board.

Belarusian Roman Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested in Minsk after the plane - which was en-route to Lithuania - was forced to land in the Belarusian capital.

The defendants were charged in a one-count indictment alleging conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy on a plane where a U.S. national was aboard, violating U.S. federal law.

Four U.S. citizens were among the approximately 132 passengers and crew members aboard the flight.

The charges provide one of the most detailed accounts yet of how a fake bomb threat was allegedly used to force Ryanair flight 4978 to land in Minsk.

The diversion was directed by the head of Belarus' state aviation authority, Leonid Mikalaevich Churo, and a state security official identified as FNU LNU, according to prosecutors, who used acronyms for unknown first and last names.

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