Dozens of people demonstrated from 3:00 to 4:00 PM on Saturday outside the Belarus Embassy in Brussels, demanding the release of opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich, his partner Sofia Sapega and all other political prisoners in Belarus.
The demonstrators carried placards bearing messages such as “Freedom for Pratasevich and Sapega” and “No to abusive arrests.”
Pratasevich and Sapega were arrested on Sunday 23 May after a European airliner in which they were travelling was forced to land in Minsk by the Belarus authorities.
The gathering outside the embassy was addressed by various speakers, including Christophe d’Aloisio, spokesperson of the Christian human rights organisation ACAT Belgique, which advocates for the abolition of torture and the death penalty.
“We feel we need to use our freedom for those who have none and we really see it as [a critical issue] that a country in Europe continues to apply the death penalty,” d’Aloisio said. “Our organisation is fighting for the total abolition of the death penalty, whatever the circumstances.”
“We are convinced that the statements of Raman Pratasevich, to the effect that he is being well treated in prison and that he took part in organising unrest, were obtained through torture because the things to which they are trying to make him confess are punishable by death [in the Belarus criminal code],” d’Aloisio added.
The demonstrators also denounced the fact that the Belarus authorities forced an airliner to make an emergency landing in order to arrest the opposition journalist, a move that prompted the European Union to close its airspace to Belarus and to ask European airlines to stop flying over the country.
“We see Russian geopolitical interest behind this,” d’Aloisio said. “There was no better way to alienate the ‘little Belarusian brother’ from the European Union, which could not tolerate such State piracy.”
“Since August 2020, there have been pro-democracy demonstrations of a magnitude never seen before in that country and many were hoping that the regime would be toppled, which was not to Russia’s advantage,” he explained.
The Brussels Times