- Belarus diverted a Ryanair flight Sunday and arrested an outspoken dissident who was on board.
- Belarus has said it received an emailed bomb threat claiming to be from Hamas and told the pilots.
- But the email wasn’t sent until after Belarus alerted pilots of the threat, per The Daily Beast.
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The bomb threat that Belarus used to justify diverting a plane carrying an opposition journalist wasn’t sent until 24 minutes after Minsk first alerted the pilots about it, The Daily Beast reported.
On Sunday, Ryanair Flight 4978 traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania, from Athens, Greece, was told to land in Minsk. When it landed, Belarusian authorities boarded the plane and arrested the dissident Roman Protasevich, who was on board.
Protasevich is one of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s most vocal critics and is accused of terrorism and inciting anti-government riots.
Belarus said Monday that it had diverted the plane because of a bomb threat purportedly from the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that the bomb threat, which came as an email, was received by Minsk National Airport’s general information account at 12:57 p.m. on Sunday.
But the plane was first alerted to the threat at 12:33 p.m., the outlet said, 24 minutes before.
According to The Daily Beast, the email — which bore the subject line “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) — said:
“We, Hamas soldiers demand that Israel cease fire in the Gaza Strip. We demand that the European Union abandon its support for Israel in this war. We know that the participants of Delphi Economic Forum are returning home on May 23 via flight FR4978. A bomb has been planted onto this aircraft. If you don’t meet our demands the bomb will explode on May 23 over Vilnius.”
The Daily Beast noted the further inconsistency that Israel and Hamas were already engaged in a cease-fire that first took effect Friday morning.
Hamas has denied involvement in the bomb threat.
On Monday, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, told Ireland’s “Newstalk Breakfast” radio show that the incident was “a case of state-sponsored hijacking” in which “the intent of the authorities was to remove a journalist.”
The hijacking has been widely denounced by top officials in the US, the UK, and the European Union. Only Russia is standing by Belarus, and some experts have speculated that Moscow — on which Belarus heavily relies on for support — was either involved in or supportive of Belarus’ actions.
Russia denies involvement.
On Monday the Belarusian government released a video in which Protasevich confessed to planning protests in Minsk. He is still in custody.
His father, Dzmitry Protasevich, told Sky News the confession looked forced and that his son’s nose appeared to be broken.