An activist cut his throat during a hearing in Belarus

(CNN) — A Belarusian activist slit his throat during a court hearing in Minsk on Tuesday, according to the local human rights organization Viasna 96.

According to the group, Steffan Latypov, who faces accusations of organizing protests and resisting arrest, stabbed himself in the neck during the hearing due to alleged threats from the authorities against his family if he did not plead guilty. He faces an additional fraud charge which he also denies.

«Father, after meeting you, GUBOPiK [Dirección Principal de Lucha contra el Crimen Organizado y la Corrupción del Ministerio del Interior bielorruso] He came to see me and warned me that if I did not admit my guilt, they would put me in a cell with inveterate criminals and criminal cases would be brought against my relatives and neighbors, ”said Latypov, according to Viasna 96, before cutting himself.

CNN was unable to reach the Belarusian Interior Ministry for comment.

Call for an end to “state terror” in Belarus

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya tweeted about Latypov’s case on Tuesday, calling for an end to the country’s “state terror.”

The opposition and former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya casts her vote during the presidential elections in Minsk on August 9, 2020. She then went into exile in Lithuania.

“They threatened to persecute his family if he did not admit guilty. This is the result of state terror, repression and torture in Belarus. We must stop him immediately.

Tikhanovskaya herself fled Belarus in August last year following the country’s controversial presidential elections. Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s longtime leader and described as the “last dictator in Europe,” claimed to have won more than 80% of the vote.

The elections triggered a new wave of mass protests in Belarus, with the arrest of thousands of people. The United States and the EU declared the vote fraudulent and imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials for fraud and the brutal crackdown that followed.

The Belarusian justice system detained Latypov on September 15, 2020 after asking for identification from the police who were supervising the painting of a political mural in a Minsk courtyard, according to Viasna 96.

Detained Belarusian dissident featured in new video 2:48

Viasna 96 also said Latypov underwent surgery Tuesday after cutting himself and suffered no damage to vital organs.

Persecution of activists

Latypov is just one of many activists, journalists and protesters facing charges in Belarus.

The arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and student Sofia Sapega sparked international outrage last week. The couple were detained after their Ryanair flight traveling from Athens to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius was intercepted and forced to land in Minsk while flying over Belarus.

Protasevich has been accused of “organizing massive riots and group actions that seriously violate public order”, from outside the country through his Telegram channel.

Lukashenko is sworn in during his sixth opening ceremony in Minsk in August 2020.

On Tuesday, Lukashenko announced during a government conference that he had told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Belarus would investigate Sapega, the state news agency Belta reported. Sapega is a Russian citizen.

Belta indicated that the incident was discussed between Lukashenko and Putin during their recent meeting in Sochi.

“The investigation concerning both persons will continue in Belarus. It is immovable. I told the president of Russia. I assured him that there will be no problems with the access of the consuls [a los detenidos]. I do not think they will be offended, we do more than provide information, if they want to meet, they can. It is an international practice, ”Lukashenko said, according to Belta.

Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this report.