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NGO: Belarusian man who lived abroad for 15 years detained after returning home for holidays

by Nate Ostiller January 15, 2024 9:25 PM 1 min read
Alyaksandr Mazets being detained by Belarusian security services in a screenshot of a video shared by the Viasna human rights group on Jan. 15, 2024. (Viasna/Telegram)
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Alyaksandr Mazets, a Belarusian man who has lived in Poland for 15 years, was detained for "spreading extremist material" and allegedly participating in the 2020 anti-government protests, the Viasna human rights group reported on Jan. 15.

Repressions against opposition figures and dissenters escalated in Belarus following the 2020 presidential election, in which Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko certified his hold on power through electoral fraud and a violent crackdown. Arrests of those living abroad who return for trips have also become more common.

One of the most high-profile incidents occurred in 2021 when Belarusian authorities arrested activist Raman Pratasevich after his commercial flight from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk while flying over the country. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) found Belarus guilty of orchestrating the forced landing of Ryanair Flight FR4978.

Mazets has lived in Poland since 2009 and has a Polish residence permit. He visited Belarus around the last Orthodox Christmas and was detained.

A Telegram channel associated with Belarusian security forces shared a video of Mazets being detained and subsequently saying that he "regretted" participating in the protests.  

Belarusian authorities often use forced video confessions as a means of stifling dissent.

Mazets' current whereabouts are unknown.

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