Taoiseach calls for release of journalist seized from Ryanair flight

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called for the release of the detained journalist Roman Protasevich
Taoiseach calls for release of journalist seized from Ryanair flight

James Cox

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called for the release of the detained journalist Roman Protasevich, who was seized after the Ryanair flight he was travelling on was forced to land in Belarus.

“I think we do have to send a very firm message,” the Taoiseach told journalists ahead of a meeting of EU national leaders.

He added that Protasevich should be released, The Irish Times reports.

“I think it reflects a growing authoritarianism, in the globe, near to Europe, and countries who espouse and democratic values and international rules of engagement, have to stand up to this type of behaviour,” Mr Martin said.

When asked if he would support the supsension of flights through Belarusian airspace, Mr Martin said he needed to look at all the options and examine their consequences.

Mr Martin said European leaders would discuss the situation on Monday night and consider sanctions against the regime of authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko.

“There has to be measures that respond to an event of this kind,” he said.

Belarusian authorities have said they acted “legally” and that claims that KGB secret service agents were on the plane were “baseless”.

Mr Martin dismissed the statement as nonsense.

“I think we all know what happened here and don’t be hiding behind the rules, or don’t be hiding behind excuses,” he added. “You forced the plane down to arrest a journalist whose views you don’t agree with, and that is contrary to any sense of decency or democratic values.”

Speaking earlier on today, Mr Martin described the forced landing of the flight as “piracy in the skies”. 

It is “very difficult to believe” the arrest of a prominent critic of the Belarus regime from a Ryanair flight could have taken place “without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow”, the British Foreign Secretary has said.

Aircraft have been instructed to avoid Belarusian airspace following the “state-sponsored hijack” of the flight on Sunday.

Dominic Raab said that although the situation was not yet clear, the relationship between Minsk and Moscow suggested Russian leaders may have been aware of the plans in advance.

 

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