Belarus Sentences Activist’s Girlfriend to Six Years 

The Russian girlfriend of a Belarusian dissident, arrested with him a year ago when their plane was forced to land in Minsk, was on Friday sentenced to six years in prison, a rights group said. 

Sofia Sapega, 24, was detained with Belarusian opposition activist Roman Protasevich, 27, in May 2021 when their Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was grounded as it passed over Belarus. 

Sapega, a Russian citizen, faced seven criminal charges including “inciting social hatred” and “violence or threats” against police. 

Following a closed-door trial, a court in Belarus sentenced Sapega to six years, rights group Vyasna said. 

After her arrest, Sapega cooperated with authorities and appealed to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for her release. 

Protasevich fled to Europe in 2019 from where he co-ran the Nexta Telegram channels, a key Belarus opposition media that helped mobilize protesters during historic rallies against the disputed re-election of Lukashenko in 2020. 

After their arrests, both Protasevich and Sapega appeared in “confession” videos that their supporters said were recorded under duress and are a common tactic of the regime to pressure critics. 

Protasevich remains under house arrest in Belarus awaiting trial. 


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