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Belarusian court sentences figures in Nexta case to prison

A court in Belarus sentenced dissident journalist Roman Protasevich to eight years in prison on Wednesday.

The Minsk Oblastnoy Court found Protasevich guilty of organizing mass riots, inciting social hostility, creating an extremist formation, calls to seize power and insulting and slandering Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko through the Nexta organization — recognized as a terror group in Belarus.

A Ryanair plane in Belarusian airspace on May 23, 2021, made an emergency landing in Minsk where authorities detained Protasevich, who was on the plane. Russian national Sofya Sapega, who was accompanying Protasevich, was also taken into custody.

Protasevich pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigative bodies. His statements to police were considered mitigating circumstances.

The court also sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison Nexta’s founder, Stepan Putilo. Yan Rudik, another suspect, was given 19 years. Both were found guilty of similar charges as Protasevich.

Sapega was sentenced last May to six years and was serving her sentence in a colony.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus authorized Moscow’s request for Sapega’s transfer to Russia to continue serving her sentence.

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