Belarus opposition activist stabs himself in the throat in court after being told his family would face criminal charges if he did not confess to organising protests
- Stepan Latypov attempted to stab himself in the throat with a pen in court today
- He said authorities had threatened to bring criminal charges against his family and friends unless he confessed to the opposition activity, before the incident
- Local media and the human rights group Viasna-96 said he was still alive
- Latypov was arrested in September after he attended anti-government protest
- WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT
A Belarusian prisoner detained in a crackdown last year tried to cut his own throat during a court hearing in Minsk on Tuesday after being told his family and neighbours faced prosecution if he did not plead guilty.
Footage by Radio Svaboda showed Stepan Latypov lying on a wooden bench inside a prisoner’s cage in the courtroom, with police officers standing over him and onlookers screaming.
A second video showed Latypov being carried out to a waiting ambulance with what appeared to be blood spots on his shirt. Local media and the human rights group Viasna-96 said he was still alive but was put in an induced coma in hospital.
Stepan Latypov told the court authorities had threatened to bring criminal charges against his family and friends unless he confessed to ‘opposition activity’, before attempting to stab himself in the throat with a pen in court on Tuesday
Latypov was arrested on September 15, during mass protests against Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko
Latypov was pictured being put into an ambulance after he tried to stab himself in the throat during a court hearing on Tuesday
‘Belarusian activist, political prisoner Stsiapan Latypau cut his throat in the courtroom today,’ exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter, using a different spelling of Latypov’s name.
‘He was threatened with the persecution of his family if he didn’t admit himself guilty. This is the result of state terror, repressions, torture in Belarus. We must stop it immediately!’
The nearby guards could not open the prisoner’s cage immediately because they did not have the right keys, independent media outlet Nasha Niva reported. ‘By the time the cell was opened, Stepan had already lost consciousness,’ it said.
The interior ministry spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
A second video posted to social media shows a bloodied and barely moving Latypov being carried in a stretcher to a waiting ambulance
It was not immediately clear what condition he was in, but local reports said he taken to hospital and put in an induced coma
Latypov was arrested last September during an intensifying security crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko on mass protests following a contested election the month before.
He was arrested in a Minsk courtyard that came to be known by some local residents and media as the ‘Square of Change’.
Latypov had stood in front of a mural there to try to prevent state workers, accompanied by police, from painting over opposition graffiti.
He was charged with organising riots, resisting police and fraud, and also accused on state television of planning to poison the police. He denies any wrongdoing.
Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, was rocked by strikes and weekly street protests after authorities announced that Lukashenko, who has ruled in authoritarian fashion since 1994, had secured re-election on August 9 with 80 per cent of votes.
Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, has shrugged off the scale of protests, saying they are sponsored by the West, and shown little signs of willingness to start a dialogue with the opposition.
Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia , was rocked by strikes and weekly street protests after authorities announced that Lukashenko, who has ruled in authoritarian fashion since 1994, had secured re-election on August 9 with 80 per cent of votes
More than 35,000 activists were detained and thousands beaten in protests in major cities across Belarus late last year
Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, has shrugged off the scale of protests, saying they are sponsored by the West, and shown little signs of willingness to start a dialogue with the opposition
It comes only weeks after Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23, were arrested after a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was diverted to Minsk.
The plane was forced to turn back mere miles from the Lithuania border after Belarus scrambled a fighter jet and allegedly threatened to shoot in a bold ploy to detain the pair.
Protasevich and Sapega have both admitted to several crimes since their arrest, but their confessions have widely been rubbished as false and likely extracted under torture.
Roman Protasevich (left), a journalist who reported on protests against Lukashenko, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega (right) have been in jail in Minsk since May 23
Lukashenko reportedly ordered a Ryanair flight to divert to Minsk so he could arrest the dissident journalist and his girlfriend who were on board (pictured)
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