A Belarusian opposition activist stabbed himself in the throat with a pen in the middle of a court hearing on Tuesday Jun. 2, saying investigators had pressured him to plead guilty by threatening to prosecute his family and friends.
Stepan Latypov climbed onto the defendant’s bench and said, “If I don’t plead guilty, they will open criminal cases against my family and neighbors” before he stabbed himself at the court in Minsk.
“I was in a torture cell for 51 days,” Latypov also said to his father in the court before the incident.
Footage showed Latypov injured and lying on the bench inside the defendant’s cage as the crowd panicked and screamed.
He was then carried, unconscious and with bloodstains on his shirt, into an ambulance by police officers and paramedics.
Belarus’ authorities say the 41 year old is receiving treatment at a hospital and in a stable condition.
Latypov was arrested in Sep. 2020 while defending a protest mural against police officers trying to destroy it. He has been accused of resisting arrest, inciting public unrest and fraud, charges he has denied.
The incident comes amid a crackdown on journalists in the country.
On May 23, Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to intercept a passenger plane and force it to land in Minsk, where authorities arrested prominent opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.
The events called widespread international outrage, and several European airlines have stopped flying over Belarus.
The Belarus government has now announced that Belarusians can leave the country only if they have a foreign country’s permanent residency, a measure that authorities say is due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since Lukashenko’s re-election last August, mass protests have taken place in Belarus demanding his resignation. More than 33,000 people have been detained, and more than 1,800 criminal cases were opened against activists.