Congressman Chris Smith, author of Belarus Democracy Act, demands highjacked journalist be freed

United States Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), prime author of the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020—as well as the Belarus Democracy Acts of 2004, 2006 and 2011—today demanded the immediate release of journalist and pro-democracy leader Raman Pratasevich who was arrested by Belarusian President Lukashenka after forcing the commercial airliner he was aboard to land in Minsk.

“Aboard a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania, Mr. Pratasevich’s flight was intercepted by a Belarusian fighter jet and ordered to land in Minsk, Belarus—where he was quickly arrested. This was not only the hijacking of an airliner but an unprecedented violation of international aviation rules—anyone flying over Belarus airspace is now at risk,” Smith said.

Raman Pratasevich co-founded the Telegram messaging app’s Nexta channel which quickly became a source of vital information for Belarus citizens as hundreds of thousands took to the streets after Lukashenka stole the August presidential election and began massive human rights violations against peaceful protestors that continues to this day.

Smith chaired a congressional hearing earlier this month that included testimony by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to redouble efforts to “hold Lukashenka to account”. Today, she called for the immediate release of Raman.

“This should be the final straw,” Smith continued. “As Lukashenka continues to detain and torture political prisoners—now another great journalist named Raman Pratasevich is forced to join them—every sanction on the books needs to be used against the Belarusian dictatorship including those prescribed in the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020, which first passed the House and then was signed into law by President Trump as part of last year’s appropriations and pandemic relief bill, ” Smith said.

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  1. To be logically consistent he should also demand that US stop using identical tactics, like they did when searching for Snowden.

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