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Belarusian activist stabs himself in court to protest political repression

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By Euronews with agencies
Police officers and paramedics carry Stsiapan Latypau, a Belarusian activist who attempted to kill himself during a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Police officers and paramedics carry Stsiapan Latypau, a Belarusian activist who attempted to kill himself during a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, June 1, 2021   -   Copyright  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via AP
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Belarusian activist Stsiapan Latypau stabbed himself in the neck with a pen during a court hearing on Tuesday in Minsk and was rushed to hospital unconscious, a rights group has said.

According to Viasna human rights centre in Belarus, the 41-year old attempted to commit suicide to protest political repression, following pressure in detention and threats to prosecute his relatives.

Videos circulating on social media showed Latypau being carried out of the court building and put into an ambulance.

He was hospitalised and put into an artificial coma, Viasna said.

Citing Telegram channel for opposition-leaning medical professionals Belye Khalaty (White Robes), Viasna later said on Twitter that Latypau underwent surgery and that no damage to his vital organs was detected.

His lawyer wouldn't comment on Latypau's condition.

Before stabbing himself, Latypau told his father in court that investigators had threatened to open criminal cases against his family and associates if he did not plead guilty.

According to Viasna, Latypau arrived in court with bruises. A senior advisor to opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said Latypau was subjected to torture while in detention.

Latypau faces charges of staging actions violating public order, creating protest symbols, resisting police and other alleged offences that carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

He was arrested in September last year during massive protests against the country’s authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, and has been detained since.

The protest movement began in August 2020 when Lukashenko claimed his sixth term as president in an election allegedly rigged in his favour.

Lukashenko’s government has harshly repressed post-election protests, the largest of which attracted up to 200,000 people.

More than 35,000 people have been detained since the demonstrations began, with thousands beaten, according to human rights groups.

Tuesday's court incident come as Lukashenko's regime has sparked international fury when a Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk last month and a Belarusian journalist on board was detained.

As of Tuesday, there were 454 political prisoners in Belarus, Viasna has reported. The group has declared Latypau a political prisoner last year.

Reacting to Latypau's stabbing, Tsikhanouskaya said on Tuesday: "This is the result of state terror, repressions, torture in Belarus. We must stop it immediately!"

"There hasn't been a single day without the regime breaking a fate of an innocent person for the whole year," the opposition leader wrote on Twitter.