Timing of e-mail undermines justification for plane diversion to Minsk
Belarus claims a bomb threat from Hamas was received by e-mail, but there are questions over its authenticity
Washington — A bomb threat cited by Belarusian authorities as the reason for forcing a Ryanair jetliner carrying a dissident journalist to land in Minsk was sent after the plane was diverted, privacy-focused e-mail provider Proton Technologies said on Thursday.
The Belarusian authorities said they ordered the plane, which was in Belarusian airspace on its way from Greece to Lithuania, to land in the Belarusian capital on Sunday because of a bomb threat from the Islamist militant group Hamas.
Journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, were arrested when the plane landed.
Hamas denied knowledge or connection to a bomb threat, and European leaders have accused Belarus of state-sponsored piracy.
On Wednesday London-based research group Dossier Center published what it said was an e-mail carrying the purported Hamas threat. The e-mail was sent 24 minutes after the Belarusian authorities warned the plane’s crew there was a bomb threat, it showed.
The e-mail’s timing was first reported by the Daily Beast and Newlines magazine.
Proton declined to comment on specifics of the message but confirmed it was sent after the plane was diverted.
“We haven’t seen credible evidence that the Belarusian claims are true,” the Swiss company said in a statement. “We will support European authorities in their investigations upon receiving a legal request.”
European leaders are drawing up new sanctions against Belarus over Sunday’s incident.
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