The Belarusian President is being sued in the Lithuanian court by Reporters without Borders. This follows the diversion of a Ryanair flight carrying 126 passengers last weekend, including Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich who was subsequently detained.
The media advocacy group filed a suit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, urging the country’s prosecutors to investigate Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for ‘hijacking of an aircraft with criminal intent.’
The head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk at Reporters without Borders Jeanne Cavelier told City A.M. that they decided to file a complaint against Lukashenko himself because he was the direct instigator of this act of hijacking for terrorist purposes.
She further said, “By this unprecedented act, Lukashenko wanted to intensify intimidation of the public, especially journalists”.
Last weekend, the Ryanair plane, which was bound for Lithuania, was forced to land in Minsk after Belarus claimed a bomb threat to the aircraft.
The Lithuanian criminal code penalises hijacking a plane ‘by threatening the lives or health of the crew or passengers’ and defines ‘terrorist aim’ as the ‘intent to intimidate the public or part of the public.’
Cavelier is currently in Vilnius and she has met with Martynas Jovaiša, the chief prosecutor of the department for investigating organized crime and corruption, Lithuanian deputy foreign-minister Mantas Adomėnas and Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
“Tsikhanouskaya disclosed City A.M that she was very concerned for her country’s journalists after the hijacking and Raman’s arrest, and stressed the importance of international campaigning”.
Earlier this week, Lukashenko said that Pratasevich, who was pulled off the plane that was grounded in Minsk, had been plotting a “bloody rebellion”.
The president went on to accuse the West of starting a “hybrid war” against him, in his first public comments since the incident on Sunday. He further parliament that their ill-wishers from outside the country and from inside the country changed their methods of attack on the state.
Belarus has been subject to EU and US sanctions since Lukashenko cracked down on pro-democracy protests after a disputed election last year.