UN delays report on Belarus flight rerouting to arrest journalist

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UN aviation agency ICAO is delaying until January 2022 its release of a report on the probe into the diversion of a Ryanair flight by Belarus (AFP/PETRAS MALUKAS)

UN aviation agency ICAO on Tuesday once again delayed -- until January -- its release and review of probe findings into Belarus's diversion of a Ryanair flight in order to detain a journalist onboard.

The International Civil Aviation Organization launched in May the "fact-finding investigation" into the forced grounding of the Athens-to-Vilnius flight carrying dissident Belarus journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

The pair were arrested when the plane landed in Minsk, provoking a global outcry.

An interim report had been scheduled to be presented to the ICAO Council -- a governing body made up of 36 member states -- by the end of June, and a final report submitted in September for review this month.

In an email to AFP, the Montreal-based agency said: "The ICAO Council has agreed to defer its consideration of the Ryanair Flight FR4978 investigation report until its next session, in January 2022."

It cited the "volume of data submitted and additional state clarifications still being required."

On May 23, Belarusian traffic controllers told Ryanair pilots to divert the plane, citing a bomb threat that proved to be false and scrambling a military jet to escort the aircraft.

It was forced to land in Minsk where Protasevich and Sapega were arrested.

Britain and the European Union responded by telling airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace and banning the ex-Soviet country's flagship carrier Belavia.

The regime of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who faces criticism over reported human rights crackdowns, has arrested and forced key activists into exile, and banned several media organisations and non-governmental groups.


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