Dear Minister Garneau,
Today, a civilian aircraft flying from Athens(Greece) to Vilnius (Lithuania) was grounded in Minsk by the personal order of Belarusian powerholder Alexander Lukashenka. Lukashenka carried out an act of state terrorism sending an armed Mig29 military fighter to force a civilian flight with 172 passengers on board to land in order to arrest the journalist, Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega, who traveled with him.
Raman was a co–editor of the leading opposition Telegram media channels based in Poland, and Belarusian authorities issued an order for his extradition in November 2020. Raman faces a criminal prosecution on the grounds of “orchestrating mass protests” and could be sentenced to up to 15 years of jail. His health and life are in great danger right now. The evidence of tortures of political prisoners in Belarus is abundant, and Belarus is the only country in Europe where death penalty remains constitutional.
This unacceptable act of piracy en route between two EU and NATO countries should not be left unpunished. It’s a clear demonstration that the illegitimate leader of Belarus is willing to go to extraordinary lengths,including kidnapping Belarusian and foreign citizens, to destroy his opponents, silence dissent and defend his claim of legal authority in Belarus. We call on you, Minister Garneau, and the government of Canada to take immediate actions:
- Demand immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega and their safe return to Lithuania
- Support the full and transparent ICAO investigation
- Work with NATO, US and EU allies to strengthen the sanctions against Lukashenka regime
- Prevent Canadian carriers from crossing the aerial space of Belarus and issue a travel warning to all Canadian citizens about dangers of boarding other airlines that flyover Belarusian territory