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Belarus broke the law when it diverted a Ryanair passenger flight to arrest a dissident Belarusian journalist last year, according to a report by the United Nation’s civil aviation agency, Radio Free Europe reported Tuesday.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released a fact-finding report on the Ryanair flight flying from Greece to Lithuania that was forced to land in the Belarusian capital last May after authorities in Belarus said there was a bomb on the aircraft.
Soon after the plane landed, Belarusian security officials detained journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sophia Sapega.
The ICAO’s council said the warning about the bomb threat used to divert the aircraft was “deliberately false and endangered its safety,” according to Agence France-Presse.
Belarus’ bomb hoax prompted condemnations from many Western nations, which called the forced landing a “state hijacking.” Following the event, the United Kingdom and the European Union advised airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace and barred the country’s main carrier, Belavia, from using theirs.
The UN agency also noted that Russia – a close ally of Belarus – objected to the conclusions of the report.
The arrests of Protasevich and Sapega came as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was cracking down on dissenters and protesters following the disputed 2020 presidential elections.
Lukashenko won that year’s election in a vote critics say was rigged, which sparked mass anti-government protests against the repressive leader – who has been ruling the country since 1994.