Belarus′ double executions draw EU condemnation | News | DW | 18.03.2012
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Belarus' double executions draw EU condemnation

Belarus, via its state media, has confirmed that it has executed both men convicted for a fatal metro train station bombing in Minsk last April, despite forensic doubts. EU leaders have condemned the executions.

Belarus state television said Sunday that Dmitry Konovalov was executed on Friday. The sister of the other accused, Vladislav Kovalyov, had said the family had been officially told on Saturday of her brother's execution by gunshot.

Belarus is the only country in Europe still using the death penalty. The former Soviet republic's authoritarian president Viktor Lukashenko refused to grant clemency despite EU appeals, including one from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. She had urged Belarus to join a global moratorium. Within the 27-nation European Union the death penalty is banned.

European Parliament President Martin Schultz said he was appalled. "The death penalty is irrevocable, inhumane and degrading," he said on Saturday.

Germany joins condemnation

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was also condemnatory. "Alexander Lukashenko has ignored all international appeals to waive the death penalty."

At the trial in November before Belarus' supreme court, Kovalyov had pleaded not guilty to being an accomplice, saying he had only agreed to testify after hearing his friend Konovalov screaming in a nearby jail cell.

Investigative flaws

Kovalyov's mother, on a visit to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in January, had said the two 25-year-old factory workers had been framed using video evidence. The 47-nation council concluded that the Belarus probe into the blast had serious investigative flaws.

Rescuers carry a wounded person on a stretcher after blast in April

Evacuating wounded after metro blast in Minsk last April

An online petition, initiated by the mother and calling for elimination of the death penalty, drew more than 50,000 signatures.

The metro blast on 11 April 2011 killed 15 people and wounded dozens of others. The court found Konovalov guilty of placing and detonating explosives at the central Minsk station during rush hour.

Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a fourth presidential term in 2010, immediately accused unknown enemies of trying to destabilize Belarus and indicated that he wanted the perpetrators found and put to death.

ipj/tj (AFP, Reuters)