From their new home in Poland, the parents of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich have been in anguish since he was seized after his flight was forced to land in Minsk.
Natalia Protasevich, the 26-year-old’s mother, said she has not slept for two nights and grips her phone tightly, hoping for any news about her son.
“He’s only one journalist, he’s only one child but please, please… I am begging for help. Please save him! They’re going to kill him in there!”
But they do not know for sure and the uncertainty is torturing them.
“One of the ways our authorities torture is by not telling relatives where their loved ones are being held until the last minute,” he said.
Protasevich’s parents are in close contact with the mother of his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a law student who was arrested along with him.
Dmitry said his son looked extremely nervous, appeared to be missing some teeth and had bruises on the left side of his face and on his neck.
But, he added, “at least it shows he is alive”.
They said their son felt safe in the European Union, first in Poland, where he moved in 2019, and then in Lithuania.
“He was on a plane registered in an EU country… and flying from an EU country to an EU country!”
“I think it will help free my son,” he said.
Roman Protasevich, who was born a year after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko first came to power in 1994, began his journalism and political activism in his teens and has been arrested several times and spent weeks in jail.
She is still in disbelief that Belarusian authorities would deploy a fighter jet to force the plane her son was on to land.
Her voice breaking, she added: “My son, this young man just wanted to tell the truth about the situation. He didn’t do anything wrong.”