Four officials of the Belarusian government were accused in the United States on Thursday of hijacking a plane that Minsk had diverted so that it could detain activist and journalist Raman Pratasevich.
Allegations of hijacking an aircraft, also known as the so-called air piracy, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday, Reuters and AFP reported. They concern the two highest representatives of the Belarusian State Air Navigation Authority and two representatives of the local state security service.
They are accused of plotting a conspiracy to hijack an aircraft that also had American citizens on board, resulting in a violation of US federal law, according to the US Public Prosecutor’s Office. Four Americans were among the 132 passengers and crew members of the flight, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The defendants’ conspiracies were to be committed by lying about the alleged bomb threat, due to which the aircraft, heading from Athens to Vilnius, was diverted on 23 May 2021 and forced to land in Minsk.
Belarusian authorities took Raman Pratasevich off the plane after landing and subsequently arrested, a Belarusian journalist living in exile, and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapego, studying in Vilnius.
Minsk is already facing a number of sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, by the US, the EU, Britain and Canada in connection with the diversion of this Ryanair flight.