Belarus 'pardons' blogger hauled off flight

STORY: Belarusian opposition blogger Roman Protasevich was pardoned on Monday (22 May) - just weeks after he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

That’s according to the Belarusian state news agency BelTA.

He was arrested in 2021 after his Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk.

"I'm very happy of course. Too many emotions at the moment, difficult to express them. But I'm very grateful to the country and to the president for this decision. I hope it will be only better now."

Charges against him included inciting terrorism, organizing mass disturbances and slandering Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

His then-girlfriend Sofia Sapega was also hauled from the plane and arrested at the time, causing international outcry and triggering European Union sanctions against Lukashenko.

Protasevich was a journalist at news outlet Nexta which reported extensively on mass protests against the leader in 2020.

It followed a presidential election that the opposition and Western governments denounced as rigged.

After his arrest, Protasevich was shown on state television confessing to involvement in anti-government protests and plotting to topple Lukashenko.

The exiled Belarus opposition said the admissions were false and he had been coerced.