Belarus pardons opposition journalist arrested after plane's forced landing

The Belarusian government says it has pardoned a dissident journalist who was arrested two years ago after authorities forced his plane to land in the capital Minsk.

A state-run news agency on Monday announced the release of Roman Protasevich. The media said President Alexander Lukashenko pardoned him for cooperating with the authorities.

Protasevich has been quoted as saying, "This is, of course, great news." He reportedly thanked Lukashenko.

The May 2021 arrest of Protasevich drew international condemnation. He was on an international flight that was ordered to land while flying over Belarus.

The journalist was accused of inciting mass protests against Lukashenko by reporting that his victory in the 2020 election was rigged. Protasevich was sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this month for plotting to seize power.

The Lukashenko administration continues to face harsh international criticism for its crackdown on opposition. In March, a human rights activist who was among the winners of last year's Nobel Peace Prize was sentenced to 10 years in prison.