Belarusian activist 'stabs himself with pen' in court 'after threat against family'

2 June 2021, 10:52

Stsiapan Latypau was taken to hospital after stabbing himself in the neck with a pen
Stsiapan Latypau was taken to hospital after stabbing himself in the neck with a pen. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

A Belarusian activist has stabbed himself in the neck during a court hearing in Minsk in a protest over political repression amid claims authorities threatened to prosecute his relatives if he didn't admit his guilt.

Stsiapan Latypau, who faces charges such as staging actions violating public order and resisting police, used a pen to inflict the wound while he was sitting behind a screen in the dock on Tuesday, according to the Viasna human rights centre in Belarus.

Mr Latypau has been in jail since September, when he was arrested during massive protests against Belarus' authoritarian leader, president Alexander Lukashenko.

The protests were triggered by Mr Lukashenko winning a sixth term in an August election that the opposition believe was rigged, having already been in power since 1994.

Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a sweeping crackdown, arresting more than 35,000 people and beating thousands.

Before stabbing himself, Mr Latypau told his father during the court proceedings that investigators had threatened to open criminal cases against his relatives and associates if he failed to admit his guilt.

Videos after the activist stabbed himself showed him being carried out of the building in Belarus' capital and put into an ambulance.

He was taken to hospital and put into an induced coma, Viasna said.

His lawyer, Olga Batyuk, would not comment on his condition.

It comes a week after Belarus diverted an international flight to arrest activist and journalist Roman Protasevich.

Last year Protasevich’s digital news outlet NEXTA broadcast footage of protests against Alexander Lukashenko.

Just two minutes before the Ryanair flight was due to cross into Lithuanian airspace last week, it was intercepted and forced to divert.

The plane was grounded for seven hours, before it was allowed to continue on course.

Read more: Extra tuition for pupils and option to repeat a year as part of £1.4bn plan

Read more: Paramedics in England to wear body cameras after rise in attacks

Protasevich was then seized by authorities once the plane was grounded.

The hijacking of the flight sparked outcry, with political leaders around the world condemning the act as being orchestrated by the government in order to arrest the journalist.

He faces charges of extremism, including organising mass riots and inciting social hatred - allegations he denies, and that could earn him up to 15 years in prison if convicted.