Rights groups and opposition media in Belarus reported that an activist “stabbed himself”, during his appearance before a court in the capital, Minsk.
Video footage showed the collapse of activist Stepan Latypov after stabbing himself with a pen. Latypov was taken to hospital, and his condition is reported to be stable after undergoing surgery.
Latypov is accused of establishing opposition networks on social media and resisting the police during his September arrest. The activist denies all charges against him.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down hard on the opposition since winning a controversial election last August.
What happened in the courtroom?
According to the rights group “Viasna”, Latypov stabbed himself after his father appeared as a witness in the courtroom.
Latypov allegedly told his father that law enforcement authorities threatened to physically harm him if he did not plead guilty.
The authorities also reportedly threatened to bring criminal cases against his relatives and neighbours.
The group “Viasna” said that it took some time, before the guards opened the dock to get Latypov out.
The opposition “Nexta” channel, which broadcasts on the Telegram application, published a video clip showing Latypov lying on one of the courtroom benches.
The Belarusian Ministry of Health said that a 41-year-old man was in stable condition after his wound was treated by paramedics under the influence of anaesthesia. The ministry did not name the man, according to Reuters.
Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya commented on Twitter: “Belarusian political activist Stepan Latypov cut his throat in the courtroom today. He was threatened with persecution of his family if he did not plead guilty.”
“This is the result of state terrorism, oppression and torture in Belarus. We must prevent this immediately,” she added.
In a separate development, Belarus banned all citizens from leaving, including many holders of foreign residency.
The decision of the State Border Committee to tighten the restrictions came after an angry international reaction to Belarus, after it diverted a flight, and the arrest of a Belarusian dissident and his girlfriend on the plane.
Many opponents left Belarus after the elections were over and Lukashenko declared his victory.
Tikhanovskaya, who insists she won the election, has moved with her team to neighboring Lithuania.