A law student from European Humanities University (EHU) was detained along with a Belarusian blogger after Belarus forced their commercial flight to land in Minsk rather than Lithuania.
“As a result of a cover operation by the Belarusian authorities,” student Sofia Sapega “was detained by the administration of the Investigative Committee for the city of Minsk on groundless and made-up conditions,” according to the university website.
“Sapega is a Russian citizen studying International Law and European Union Law program at EHU,” the university wrote on its website. “While returning with boyfriend [Raman Pratasevich] from vacation, Sofia was getting prepared for the defense of her master’s thesis in Vilnius,” the university wrote.
Sapega “is well regarded due to her academic performance and reputation in EHU’s community” by groupmates and faculty members, the website states.
Pratasevich, 26, has been critical of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in his online blogs. The United States and European governments are accusing Belarus of engaging in an act of state terrorism. They have called on Lukashenko’s government to immediately release Pratasevich.
Pratasevich and Sapega were flying from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday when their Ryanair flight was diverted by the Belarusian regime because of an alleged bomb threat.
European Humanities University was founded in Minsk in 1992 but forced by Belarusian authorities to relocate in 2004 to neighboring Lithuania, according to its website.
Pratasevich was a key administrator of the Telegram channel NEXTA Live, which has been covering the protests that broke out in Belarus following the country’s disputed presidential election last August.
Belarusian authorities in November 2020 launched investigations into Pratasevich and a colleague on suspicion of the organization of mass disorder, disruption of the social order, and inciting social hatred.
European Humanities University says other students have been arrested and imprisoned in Belarus for protesting against the government. They include:
- Maryia (Marfa) Rabkova, a third-year student who was detained September 2020, and was facing up to 12 years in prison.
- Akihiro Gaevski-Hanada, a second-year student who was detained August 2020. The university stated that he was "severely beaten after his arrest."
- Mikalai Dziadok, who graduated in 2019, was detained in November 2020. The university said his health "deteriorated greatly" since his arrest, and he faces up to three years in prison.
Some information for this report came from RFE/RL.