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Belarus executes men convicted of subway bombing

The EU’s foreign policy chief has voiced concerns over the trial of the men convicted for the April 2011 bomb which killed 15 people in Minsk.

Dmitry Konovalov, left, and Vladislav Kovalyov stand in a defendant's cage during their trial in September 2011.
Dmitry Konovalov, left, and Vladislav Kovalyov stand in a defendant's cage during their trial in September 2011.
Image: AP Photo/Sergei Grits/PA File

TWO MEN CONVICTED of carrying out a deadly subway bombing last year in Belarus’ capital have been executed, drawing strong condemnation from activists and the European Union.

The mother of one of the two 26-year-olds said that she had received official notification of the execution of her son, Vladislav Kovalyov. State television reported late yesterday that both Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov had been put to death, which in Belarus is done with a shot to the back of the head.

Human rights activists condemned the hasty executions, saying they deprived society of the opportunity to learn the truth.

“The government was in a rush to throw a white shroud over all the contradictions and discrepancies in the case,” activist Lyudmila Gryaznova said today. “The execution of the so-called terrorists, whose guilt remains under suspicion, gives the appearance that the government is concealing the traces of the crime.”

Convicted

The men were convicted in November of planting a bomb in Minsk’s busiest subway station that killed 15 people and wounded more than 300 in April.

Konovalov had acknowledged his guilt. Investigators said Kovalyov was aware of the plans to bomb the subway, but he insisted he did not take part and pleaded not guilty. Their defence lawyers said the evidence presented in court was circumstantial and inconclusive.

Critics of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko accused his government of staging the bombing to divert attention from the worst economic crisis in the country’s post-Soviet history.

Belarusians angered by the executions came to lay flowers or light candles outside the subway station today.

“The government shot these boys so quickly that I have even more doubts about their guilt,” said Tatyana Snezhinskaya, a 42-year-old teacher, who was among those laying flowers. “The death penalty should be abolished. We should not take the lives of people, especially of those who might be the victims of judicial errors or political orders.”

Flowers also were laid outside Belarus’ embassy in Moscow, where someone had placed a sign with photographs of the two men and the words: “They were killed on Lukashenko’s whim.”

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is “aware of the terrible crimes that these two men were accused of and her thoughts are with the victims and their families,” her spokesman said in a statement.

“At the same time, the high representative notes that the two accused were not accorded due process, including the right to defend themselves.”

Lukashenko last week ignored appeals from Ashton and others for clemency.

The time and place of executions in Belarus are kept secret. Relatives of those executed are notified afterward, if at all, and are not told where the bodies are buried.

Belarus is the only country in Europe that still puts people to death, and rights activists claim that around 400 people have been executed since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Lukashenko: Two subway bomb suspects have confessed >

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Associated Press

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