After Raman Pratasevich was imprisoned in May 2021, German MP and Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Alliance 90/The Greens) had taken over the godparenthood of the Belarusian opposition blogger as part of Libereco’s solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou. Now Özdemir comments on the pardon of Pratasevich.

Cem Özdemir

Almost two years to the day after the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk and the subsequent arrest of Raman Pratasevich, the Belarusian opposition blogger has now been pardoned by dictator Alexander Lukashenko and released from prison.

“I am very pleased about the pardon of Raman Pratasevich, who has apparently been under great pressure from the Belarusian regime over the past two years. Besides him, there are another 1,500 political prisoners in Belarusian prisons and penal camps, among them Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski. Like Raman Pratasevich, they must all be released immediately and unconditionally – and without having to appeal a clemency to dictator Lukashenko. The political persecution of dissidents in Belarus must finally come to an end,” says German MP and Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Alliance 90/The Greens).

Özdemir had taken on a godparenthood for Pratasevich immediately after his arrest on 23 May 2021 on the initiative of Libereco. As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, more than 360 members of parliament from two dozen European countries have already “adopted” political prisoners in Belarus.

Lukashenko regime forced Pratasevich to make confessions and apologetic statements on state TV

Only recently on 3 May, Pratasevich had been sentenced to eight years in prison by a court in Minsk. He spent the past two years under house arrest and the Belarusian regime had repeatedly forced the 28-year-old to make confessions and apologetic statements on state TV. Pratasevich also pleaded guilty during his trial and therefore received a significantly lighter sentence than his co-defendants who were convicted in absentia.

More than 1,000 days have passed since the Belarusian presidential elections on 9 August 2020 and the brutal crackdown of the subsequent mass protests. Since the beginning of the nationwide demonstrations for freedom and democracy, more than 38,000 people have been arrested, according to the Belarusian Viasna Human Rights Centre. Between 2020 and 2023, there were more than 2,300 political prisoners in total. There are still 1,500 of them in Belarusian prisons. The prison sentences of all currently imprisoned political prisoners add up to 5,300 years – a sad record.