A Belarusian court sentenced the Russian girlfriend of a Belarusian dissident journalist to six years in prison on a charge of inciting social hatred.
Sofia Sapega, 24, was found guilty on charges of inciting social enmity and discord and illegally collecting and disseminating information about the private life of an unnamed person. She is also required to pay a fine of 175,000 Belarusian rubles, equal to $50,000 in U.S. currency, according to the Moscow Times.
Roman Protasevich was traveling with Sapega on a flight from Greece to Lithuania in May 2021 when Belarusian authorities forcibly diverted the plane to Minsk, Belarus, claiming a bomb was aboard. The two were detained in Minsk, and the bomb threat was revealed to have been false, sparking international outrage and prompting the European Union and the United States to impose additional sanctions on Belarus.
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Prior to his arrest, Protasevich served as editor of the Telegram channel Nexta, which worked to mobilize anti-Lukashenko protests claiming he won a sixth term in a rigged election.
But the dissident journalist renounced his former anti-government views in June 2021, praising Lukashenko and wanting to "do everything to correct this situation." Family members and opposition leaders suggested he made the statements under coercion.
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Sapega is not planning to appeal her sentence and intends to seek a pardon from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, her lawyers told BBC, per a translation. She will still have to pay the fine even if she is pardoned.
Protasevich, 27, has yet to go on trial.