Belarus activist stabs himself in neck with 'pen' during trial

Belarus activist stabs himself in neck with 'pen' during trial
Belarus activist stabs himself in neck with 'pen' during trial

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MINSK — A Belarusian activist stabbed his own throat during a court hearing in Minsk on Tuesday, according to local human rights watchdog Viasna 96.

According to the organization, Steffan Latypov, who is facing allegations of organizing protests and resisting arrest, stabbed himself in the neck during the hearing because of alleged threats from authorities against his family if he didn't plead guilty. He faces an additional charge for fraud which he also denies.

Footage appeared to show Latypov collapsing after using what looked like a pen as a weapon.

"Father, after meeting with you, GUBOPiK (Belarusian Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption) came to me and warned that if I didn't admit my guilt, then I would be thrown in a cell with hardened criminals and criminal cases would be launched against my relatives and neighbors," Latypov said according to Viasna 96 before cutting himself.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya tweeted on Tuesday about Latypov's case and called for an end to the country's "state of terror."

"He was threatened with the persecution of his family if he didn't admit himself guilty. This is the result of state terror, repressions, torture in Belarus. We must stop it immediately!"

Tikhanovskaya herself fled Belarus in August last year following the country's disputed presidential elections. Alexander Lukashenko, the country's long-time leader who has been described as Europe's "last dictator," claimed to have won over 80 percent of the vote.

The election sparked a new wave of mass protests in Belarus, with thousands of people arrested. The US and EU declared the vote fraudulent and imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials over the fraud and the brutal crackdown that followed.

Latypov was detained on Sept. 15, 2020, after he asked for identification from police who were overseeing the painting-over of a political mural in a courtyard in Minsk, according to Viasna 96.

Viasna 96 also said Latypov underwent surgery on Tuesday after he cut himself and did not suffer from damage to vital organs.

Latypov is just one of many activists, journalists and protesters facing charges in Belarus.

The arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and student Sofia Sapega sparked international outrage last week. The pair were detained after their Ryanair flight traveling from Athens to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius was intercepted and forced to land in Minsk as it overflew Belarus.

Protasevich has been charged with "organizing mass riots and group actions that grossly violate public order," from outside the country via his Telegram channel.

On Tuesday, Lukashenko announced during a government conference that he had told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Belarus will investigate Sapega, state-run news agency Belta reported. Sapega is a Russian citizen.

Belta reported the incident was discussed between Lukashenko and Putin during their recent meeting in Sochi.

"The investigation concerning both persons will proceed in Belarus. It is unbendable. I told the president of Russia about it. I assured him there will be no issues with the consuls' access [to the arrestees]. I don't think they take offense, we do more than providing information, if they want to meet, they can go ahead. It is an international practice," Lukashenko said, according to Belta. — CNN with inputs from agencies

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