Airlines shunned Belarus’s airspace and Belarusian planes could soon be banned from Europe, potentially isolating the land-locked country apart from its border with Russia after it forced down a jetliner and arrested a dissident journalist.
A video released overnight showed 26-year-old Roman Protasevich confessing to having organised anti-government demonstrations.
He was pulled off the passenger plane that was forced to land in the Belarusian capital ,Minsk.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the video made for distressing viewing and exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said that the video left no doubt that Protasevich had been tortured.
“He said that he was treated lawfully, but he’s clearly beaten and under pressure. There is no doubt that he was tortured. He was taken hostage,” she told a news conference in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Belarus has not commented on the torture allegation but has consistently denied abusing detainees.
Protasevich and a 23-year-old student travelling with him were arrested after their Ryanair flight was escorted by a Belarusian warplane while flying from Greece to Lithuania.
Western powers have widely condemned the incident, which NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described as a “state hijacking”.
Belarusian state media have reported that President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered the flight to be intercepted. Belarus says it was responding to a bomb scare that later proved to be a false alarm.
UN agency ICAO has said the incident may have violated the foundational treaty governing international civil aviation, the 1944 Chicago Convention.
At least three other people disembarked the flight in Minsk, assumed by Western countries to have been spies who had helped coordinate an operation to capture Protasevich.
Source: Civil Aviation Authority – Qatar