Belarus death sentence criticised

Thu, Dec 1, 2011, 00:00

BELARUS HAS sentenced two men to death for bombing a metro station in the capital Minsk, ignoring pleas for mercy from relatives and sharp international criticism of their trial.

Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov were convicted of an attack during evening rush hour on April 11th that killed 15 people and injured dozens of others.

The attack was unprecedented in Belarus, where terrorism is almost unheard of and the KGB security service of autocratic president Alexander Lukashenko exerts an iron grip on society.

The men, both 25, were arrested the day after the blast but the prosecution offered little explanation and no forensic evidence.

Prosecutors say both men admitted their guilt, but Kovalyov retracted his confession during the trial. He said it had been given under duress and that he had heard Konovalov being beaten.

The bomb exploded during a crackdown by Mr Lukashenko on Belarus’s opposition movement and as he grappled with the worst economic crisis of his 17-year rule. He said at the time that the attack was “aimed at undermining peace and stability in the country”.

“We have serious concerns that they [the accused] were ill-treated in order to force them to confess,” said John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International.