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Who Is Roman Protasevich, the Opposition Journalist?

It has all of the elements of a Jason Bourne plot: A commercial flight carrying a dissident journalist is intercepted by a MiG-29 fighter jet under orders from the strongman president of Belarus.

This protagonist is very much real. His name is Roman Protasevich, and on Sunday, he drew worldwide attention because the Belarusian government and its authoritarian leader went to extraordinary lengths to stop him.

Mr. Protasevich, 26, was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force scrambled a fighter jet. The flight, on the Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

The widely condemned tactic was the latest attempt by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian leader, to suppress the influential voice of Mr. Protasevich.

NEXTA channel on the social media platform Telegram, which has become a popular conduit for Mr. Lukashenko’s foes to share information and organize demonstrations against the government.

He fled the country in 2019, fearing arrest. But he has continued to roil Mr. Lukashenko’s regime while living in exile in Lithuania, so much so that he was charged in November with inciting public disorder and social hatred.

As a teenager, Mr. Protasevich became a dissident, first drawing scrutiny from law enforcement. He was expelled from a prestigious school for participating in a protest rally in 2011 and later was expelled from the journalism program of the Minsk State University.

Mr. Protasevich was returning to Vilnius from an economic conference in Greece with the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Greek officials said.

Twitter on Sunday for its detention of Mr. Protasevich. He called it a “brazen and shocking act to divert a commercial flight and arrest a journalist.”

“We demand an international investigation and are coordinating with our partners on next steps,” Mr. Blinken said. “The United States stands with the people of Belarus.”

The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the K.G.B., placed Mr. Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists. If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

The charges of inciting public disorder and social hatred carry a punishment of more than 12 years in prison.

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The Refugee Who Fought Germany’s Hard Right

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — The country’s largest-circulation tabloid called him the “scandal asylum seeker” and accused him (falsely) of entering the country illegally. People hacked his social media accounts and broadcast his location and personal information. A far-right political leader decried him as the “ringleader” of a violent protest, while another even suggested people like him would be a good reason to bring back the death penalty in Germany.

Alassa Mfouapon is hardly the first refugee to become sensationalist fodder for tabloids or a convenient scapegoat for far-right, anti-immigration politicians. In the five years since a major wave of refugees arrived in Germany, such portrayals have become commonplace.

But the 31-year-old from Cameroon is the first to take them to court for those depictions — and win.

In the process, he has emerged as an ideological lightning rod in the debate over refugee politics in Germany, his journey highlighting the disconnect between the country’s image on refugee issues and the reality for many of those who seek asylum here.

German court ruled that aspects of the police’s handling of the Ellwangen raid were illegal. The court did not rule entirely in his favor — it said, for example, that his 2018 deportation to Italy was legal, and that people in refugee facilities like Ellwangen cannot expect the same privacy rights as ordinary citizens. But his case has spurred a re-examination of the treatment of the Ellwangen incident in the German news media, drawing more attention to the voices of the refugees involved.

Cases like Mr. Mfouapon’s remain rare, because few refugees want to stand up to the state for fear they will become targets, just as Mr. Mfouapon has.

Mr. Mfouapon returned to Germany in 2019. He and his wife split up, unable to move past the loss of their son. He has added German to his other language skills and, with the help of some activists involved in his petition, applied for and started a training program in media production last year.

He has also launched a refugee advocacy organization to continue drawing awareness to these issues. Speaking out about his experiences is important to him personally, but is also a way to cope with the trauma and loss he has faced.

“All these events in my life, all these things that were happening before — if you want to deal with them, the only way you can do it is to try to go forward,” he said. “To say, ‘I will be fighting for the people who are not yet in this situation, so that what’s happening will not happen to anyone else.’”

He believes Germany needs to re-examine its asylum policy, and is pushing for changes to the Dublin rule. With worsening conditions in his home country and many others, Mr. Mfouapon said, migration issues will only intensify in coming years — and governments like Germany’s need to be ready with better solutions.

“They are trying to stop it, they are not trying to solve it,” he said. “And trying to stop something that’s exploded already — you can’t.”


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Outcry in Pakistan After Imran Khan Links Rape to How Women Dress

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An outcry has erupted in Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed a rise in rape cases on how women dressed, remarks that activists denounced as perpetuating a culture of victim blaming.

Mr. Khan made the comments on a live television show earlier this week when he was asked what the government was doing to curb an increase in sexual violence against women and children. Mr. Khan acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and pointed to the country’s strict laws against rape.

But, he said, women had to do their part.

“What is the concept of purdah?” he said, using a term that refers to the practice of seclusion, veiling or concealing dress for women in some South Asian communities. “It is to stop temptation. Not every man has willpower. If you keep on increasing vulgarity, it will have consequences.”

The uproar was swift.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group, demanded Mr. Khan apologize for his remarks, which it called “unacceptable behavior on the part of a public leader.”

chemical castration.

There are few reliable statistics on rape in Pakistan, but rights activists say it is a severely underreported crime, in part because victims are often treated as criminals or blamed for the assaults. Thousands of protesters took to the streets last year after a top police official in the eastern city of Lahore said that a woman who was raped on a deserted highway was partly to blame for the attack.

not how women dress!” she wrote in one post. In another, she said that she hoped that Mr. Khan had been misquoted because the man she knew had different opinions.

entered politics, and has been accused of being overly sympathetic to the Taliban in recent years.

To women’s rights activists, Mr. Khan’s comments this week were only the latest example of the challenge they face in finding support for their causes in the deeply conservative society. Organizers of women’s rights marches on International Women’s Day last month have said they have been accused of “vulgarity” for seeking equal rights.

“It’s already tremendously challenging for women of all ages in public spaces in Pakistan, whether on the streets or at work or in the digital space, even in their own homes,” said Ms. Sukhera, the author in Lahore. “Regressive preaching prevents women from reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs, and must be addressed.”

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Firing Squad or Electric Chair? That’s the Choice for Death Row Inmates in South Carolina.

Death row inmates in South Carolina could soon have another option for their execution: the firing squad.

A bill from the South Carolina Senate is the latest move by a pro-capital punishment state looking to resume executions with archaic methods, in light of the yearslong, nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs. The Senate voted Tuesday to restart state executions after a nearly decade-long moratorium, making the electric chair the new default method and adding firing squad as an alternative.

There’s a good chance the new bill will become law, as Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is a vocal supporter of the death penalty.

In the last five years, other Southern states have looked for ways to carry out executions despite the lethal-drug shortage that has all but halted the practice nationally. In 2015, Oklahoma approved the use of the nitrogen gas chamber to carry out the death penalty. Mississippi and Alabama followed in 2017 and 2018 respectively. In 2019, former President Donald Trump brought back the federal death penalty for the first time in 17 years, obtaining the lethal injection drugs through shady means.

For years, South Carolina inmates had to choose between the electric chair and lethal injection. With the state’s supply of lethal-injection drugs expired, most death row inmates chose the method that the state couldn’t carry out.

The lethal injection drug shortage has been a major obstacle for the 27 states that still have a capital punishment statute. In 2011, the U.S. pharmaceutical company Hospira, which once made the drug most states used for executions, stopped manufacturing the key ingredient needed for the lethal cocktail. To help drive the shortage, U.S. activists and attorneys who opposed the death penalty lobbied European nations that imported drugs that the states were repurposing for the death penalty to withhold them, according to The Marshall Project. Since then, states have either had to scramble to find a legal alternative or put a stop to executions altogether.

Of the 27 states that still allow criminals to be executed, only nine have approved alternative methods. Of those nine, South Carolina could be the fourth that allows execution by firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, joining Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. Ronnie Lee Gardner was the last incarcerated American killed via firing squad. He was executed in Utah in June 2010.

In 2014, Tennessee approved the use of the electric chair when it couldn’t obtain the drugs needed to put prisoners to death. Over the next four years, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma would turn to the use of nitrogen gas chambers, though none of them have figured out how to use the deadly gas in practice, according to The Appeal.

In 2019, the Trump administration managed to secure a new supply of pentobarbital, a lethal drug, from private companies. In the last year and a half of his term, Trump’s Justice Department managed to execute 13 inmates in total, including Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to be killed by the federal government in 70 years. In his final months in office, Trump even tried to bring back the use of firing squads.

President Joe Biden has yet to put an official stop to the federal death penalty since taking office in January despite openly opposing the policy while campaigning for office, and pressure from national human and civil rights groups.

South Carolina’s move follows Montana’s House vote last month to resume the death penalty,  after it had been on hold since 2015 when a county judge determined pentobarbital was deemed too tortuous.

The neighboring state of Virginia just recently abolished the death penalty, becoming the first Southern state to do so.

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