Belarusian TV airs interview with jailed activist

Belarusian state television has aired a long interview with imprisoned government critic Roman Protasevich for the first time since he was jailed after being offloaded a Ryanair flight on May 23.

In the interview with the broadcaster ONT, which was aired on Thursday evening, the 26-year-old activist admitted to having organised protests against long-time President Alexander Lukashenko, reports dpa news agency.

His mother Natalia Protasevich, who lives in Poland, described the interview on Friday as the result of torture in prison.

“I can’t even imagine the torture methods – both psychological and physical – that my son is being subjected to at the moment,” the 46-year-old told dpa.

“You probably can’t suffer a greater torture as a mother.”

In the one-and-a-half-hour conversation, Protasevich also made accusations against other members of the Belarusian opposition.

Protasevich’s parents had already expressed the suspicion that their son was being mistreated in prison and forced to make statements.

Lukashenko had forced the passenger plane from Athens to Vilnius to reroute and land in Minsk on May 23 and had Protasevich and his girlfriend arrested.

Also on Friday, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said that Protasevich, was surely tortured and the international community should not pay heed to such extorted statement.

“All such videos are done under pressure,” Tikhanovskaya said at a press conference in Warsaw on Friday.

“(Through using violence) you can make a person say whatever you want.”

When a person is in a political prison, the aim is to survive: “We don’t have to pay attention” to such statements, the Belarusian opposition leader said.

The flight diversion incident has intensified the conflict between the former Soviet republic and the West.

The EU and the US imposed new sanctions on Belarus as a result.