Raman Pratasevich pardoned by Lukashenka
On May 22, the Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) reported that Raman Pratasevich, sentenced to eight years in prison, was pardoned. After the sentence was announced, he remained under house arrest.
“Moments ago, I just signed all the necessary documents stating that I have been pardoned. This is, of course, just fantastic news,” said Pratasevich.
Raman Pratasevich expressed his immense gratitude to the country and Aliaksandra Lukashenka personally for the decision to pardon him:
“First of all, I am very grateful to the country and personally to the president for such a decision.”
Raman Pratasevich was detained by special services on May 23, 2021, as a result of the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger airliner, en route from Athens to Vilnius by Belarusian authorities at Minsk National Airport. Sofia Sapega, a student at the European Humanities University, was detained alongside him. She is currently serving her sentence in a Homieĺ colony.
After Pratasevich's detention, he was held in the KGB pre-trial detention center for some time. Two weeks later, he appeared on All-National Television, Belarus's second state-owned television station. Then he listed the members of the Hata Telegram chat, where allegedly “all the main decisions were made about where the next action will take place, and where all current events were discussed”. In June 2021, Pratasevich was transferred to house arrest.
On May 3, the Minsk Regional Court in Belarus announced the verdict in a high-profile criminal case against the creators and editors of the Nexta project, an opposition news outlet: Stsiapan Putsila, Yan Rudzik, and Raman Pratasevich. Judge Viachaslau Tuleika found them guilty of several criminal charges and sentenced the defendants to prison terms ranging from eight to 20 years in a medium-security penal colony. Pratasevich fully admitted his guilt. This was the same verdict requested by prosecutor Natallia Sakalova. Raman Pratasevich was not taken into custody in the courtroom; he remained under house arrest. Putsila and Rudzik were tried in absentia. The trial lasted ten weeks, with some hearings held behind closed doors.