Hamas denies involvement in false bomb threat on plane which led to Belarus opposition journalist detained

Hamas denies involvement in false bomb threat on plane which led to Belarus opposition journalist detained
Hamas denied involvement in a false bomb threat which forced a passenger plane to make an emergency landing in Belarus.
2 min read
25 May, 2021
Belarusian journalist and opposition activist Roman Protasevich seen on May 25, 2021. [Anadolu Agency/Getty]

Palestinian movement Hamas denied it had anything to do with an alleged false bomb threat on a passenger plane Tuesday, which led to the arrest of a Belarusian activist Roman Protasevich.

Belarusian authorities said Monday that a Ryanair plane was diverted to Minsk on Sunday after it received a threat through an email message attributed to Hamas. An opposition figure was among the passengers and was arrested after the plane landed.

The Director of Air Transport at the Belarusian transport ministry, Artem Sikorsky, read - what he said was a translation into Russian - of a message in English: "We, Hamas soldiers, demand that Israel stop firing on the Gaza Strip. We demand that the European Union stop its support for Israel… if our demands are not met, a bomb will explode (on board a Ryanair) over Vilnius."

Israel's bombardment of Gaza killed around 250 Palestinians including 66 children.

A spokeswoman at the Belarusian interior ministry announced that Belarusian opposition figure Protasevich was arrested after the plane made its emergency landing in Minsk and is currently in detention.  

Protasevich- an opposition activist and journalist- stated that he is cooperating with investigators, according to a video tape broadcast on state television.

"The (investigation) team is dealing with me in a completely appropriate manner and with respect to the law. I continue my cooperation with the investigators," the young dissident said in the video, in which he appeared sitting behind a table facing the camera.

Mink has come under fire from a number of western governments for arresting Protasevich.

The US has called for the activist's immediate release.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the excuses used by Belarusian authorities to divert the flight "lack credibility", speaking before a European Union summit on Monday.

The issue of imposing sanctions on Minsk will be discussed Tuesday evening.

The UK has already asked its airlines not to enter Belarusian airspace, while Lithuania and Ukraine banned all flights via the country’s airspace.

SAS and Air Baltic also announced that they would avoid Belarus airspace, while London announced the suspension of licensing for the national airline, Belavia.

The European Union, the UK and Germany have all summoned Belarus’ ambassadors.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation announced an emergency meeting of its administrative board for Thursday to discuss the incident