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  • Five Years Ago Aleh Byabenin Died

    Aleh Byabenin died in suspicious circumstances. On 3 September 2010, he was found by his brother and his friends hanging from the stairway of his country house outside of Minsk.

    The author­i­ties claimed imme­di­ate­ly that an autop­sy estab­lished that Byabenin had com­mit­ted sui­cide. There was no any note left. The foren­sic exam­i­na­tion was pro­longed sev­er­al times, but final­ly the offi­cial state­ment con­clud­ed sui­cide.

    The OCSE experts con­firmed the state­ment, but under­lined that they were not autho­rized to con­duct their own inves­ti­ga­tion and guid­ed only by the mate­ri­als pro­vid­ed by the police inves­ti­ga­tion. There was no exhuma­tion of his body. In the mean­time, many of his friend and col­leagues dis­agree with the offi­cial state­ment.

    Those who saw the dead body claim there were signs of vio­lence. Jour­nal­ists empha­size the fact that that Biabenin was part of the pre-elec­tion team of Andrey San­nikau, the main oppo­nent of Lukashen­ka, leader of the pub­lic cam­paign “Euro­pean Belarus”. Some of the jour­nal­ists who voiced their doubts about the offi­cial state­ment received threats.

    Feb­ru­ary 1999, mem­bers of the orga­ni­a­tion­al com­mit­tee Charter’97 (left to right) Zmitser Ban­daren­ka, Andrei San­nikau and Aleh Byabenin, pho­to by Yury Dzi­adzinkin, archives of the Aba­jour mag­a­zine

    In 2012, on the Inter­na­tion­al Day to End Impuni­ty, Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists sent anoth­er let­ter to law enforce­ment agen­cies demand­ing to inves­ti­gate deaths of sev­er­al Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists. The let­ter was sent to the new­ly-appoint­ed chair­per­son of the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee of Belarus Valiantsin Shayew. “For the last decade we’ve got sev­er­al cold cas­es, as well as sev­er­al closed cas­es that leave a lot of ques­tions to answer.” In the let­ter BAJ remind­ed of the abduc­tion of Dzmit­ry Zavad­s­ki, the mur­der of Verani­ka Charkasa­va, and mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances of Aleh Biabenin and Vasil Hrod­nikau deaths. The Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee replied then that the case lies beyond their sphere of com­pe­tence because the deci­sions on the cas­es had been tak­en before Jan­u­ary 1, 2012.

    A year ear­li­er, ana­log­i­cal appeals were sent to the Gen­er­al Pros­e­cu­tors office and the Min­istry of Home Affairs. How­ev­er, the agen­cies expressed no gen­er­al eager­ness to con­tin­ue inves­ti­ga­tions.

    Aleh Byabenin’s col­leagues are sure he did not com­mit sui­cide, and hope that in future the truth will be revealed.

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