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Sofia Sapega: Russian girlfriend of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich goes on trial

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By AFP  with Euronews
Student Sofia Sapega poses for a picture in Gothenburg, Sweden, in this undated photo taken in 2019
Student Sofia Sapega poses for a picture in Gothenburg, Sweden, in this undated photo taken in 2019   -   Copyright  Credit: Reuters

The Russian girlfriend of Belarusian opposition figure Roman Protasevich has gone on trial behind closed doors.

Sofia Sapega is accused of "inciting social hatred" and “violence or threats” against police officers. She is also alleged to have run a Telegram channel that published the personal data of security forces.

The 24-year-old faces six years in prison if convicted of numerous charges.

Sapega and Protasevich were detained in May 2021 after their Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was intercepted by Belarusian authorities and forced to land in Minsk.

The arrests prompted international outrage and led the European Union to impose sanctions on the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Many European countries labelled the diversion of the Ryanair plane as a "state hijacking."

Sapega has agreed to co-operate with the investigation and called on President Lukashenko to release her.

On the first day of her trial, the court in Grodno decided to hold proceedings behind closed doors, following a request by prosecutors.

Protasevich is the former editor-in-chief of Nexta -- a media outlet that had widely reported on the unprecedented opposition protests following Lukashenko's disputed re-election in 2020.

The 26-year-old is currently under house arrest in Belarus awaiting trial for allegedly inciting opposition demonstrations. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Both Protasevich and Sapega appeared in "confession" videos shortly after their arrest, which their supporters say were coerced.