Belarus Sentences Dissident’s Russian Girlfriend to Six Years in Jail After Forced Plane Landing

Sofia Sapega, the Russian girlfriend of Belarusian dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich waits for a court hearing in Grodno, Belarus, on Friday. Leonid Shcheglov / AP

A Belarusian court on Friday sentenced Sofia Sapega, the girlfriend of a dissident detained after their commercial flight was forced to land in Belarus last year, to six years in prison for inciting social hatred, the Vyasna rights group said.

The 24-year-old Russian citizen was flying with her boyfriend Roman Protasevich, a dissident blogger critical of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, on a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius in May 2021 when it was diverted to Minsk by Belarusian authorities.

Belarus said at the time it had ordered the plane to land after an anonymous tip-off that there was a bomb onboard. The bomb threat turned out to be false, and Protasevich and Sapega were immediately detained.

The diversion of a commercial flight to detain the pair prompted international outrage and prompted the European Union and United States to impose more sanctions against Belarus.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Reuters

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