MONTREAL – The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has condemned the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Belarus in May 2021 as unlawful government interference in Minsk.

This was announced by the UN special agency on Tuesday (local time) after evaluating new evidence, including audio recordings from the air traffic controller responsible for the machine in Minsk. The bomb threat given as the reason for the landing was intentionally fake and passed on to the flight crew on the instructions of senior Belarusian government officials, ICAO said.

In May last year, Belarusian authorities forced Ryanair flight FR4978 with more than 100 people on board from Athens to Vilnius with a fighter jet to stop over in Minsk. Also on board were Belarusian anti-government blogger Roman Protasevich, co-founder of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta, and his then-girlfriend Sofia Sapega. Both were arrested after landing. The EU then closed its airspace to planes from the former Soviet republic.

In May, Sapega was sentenced to six years in prison by the authoritarian country’s justice system for leading an opposition channel on the Telegram messaging service. At the end of June, she asked for forgiveness from the sovereign Alexander Lukashenko.

According to media reports, the trial against Protasevich is still ongoing. In January, four Belarusian government officials were charged in absentia in the United States with the crash landing. The New York prosecutor charges them with “conspiracy to hijack the air”, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Four US citizens were among the passengers, he added.

© dpa | 07/20/2022 06:45

Source aero.de

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