Belarus KGB arrests Russian national in bombing case

Author : DPA

Minsk - The Belarusian KGB on Tuesday arrested a Russian national, bringing to 11 the number of persons jailed as the authoritarian former Soviet republic continued a search for the perpetrators of a July bomb blast. Uniformed and plain clothes police took into custody student Vladimir Berlunin, 21, in the capital Minsk, his lawyers said.

KGB interrogators are questioning Berlunin and the other 10 suspects about possible complicity in a July 4 bombing of an outdoor concert, which injured 50, six seriously. Suspects thus far have been held without bail, contact with relatives, or formal charges.

Berlunin's parents through attorneys asked the KGB for the student's release on bail, saying their son was anorexic and would suffer irreversible injuries to his health if detained in prison.

There was no public response to the request, in keeping with an almost total ban on comments to media by any Belarusian official on the case.

Spokesmen from Belarus' embattled opposition have accused authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko, who was present at the concert but uninjured by the blast, of using it as a pretext for cracking down on his critics.

All 10 of the Belarusians detained in connection with the bombing are known members of anti-Lukashenko groups. Berulin was the first foreigner held.

Berlunin's arrest coincided with conflicting reports of an alleged police beating of Anatoliy Lebedko, leader of the opposition United Citizens' Party.

Police spokesman Aleksander Naidenko said Lebedko was participating in an unsanctioned anti-government demonstration on Monday and, when instructed by law enforcers to leave Minsk's central Oktiaber Square the opposition leader threw himself to the pavement, and declared himself a victim of police violence.

"I was there (at the demonstration) and police did not even lay a finger on him," Naidenko said.

Lebedko told the Interfax news agency a dramatically different version of events, saying, "The police...pushed us (demonstrators) out of Oktiaber Square, then they threw me on the ground and they began kicking me."

President Lukashenko, a former collective farm boss, holds Belarus under tight control with the assistance of a powerful police and KGB.

Top targets of Belarusian government repression are opposition political parties, independent media, evangelical Christian groups, ethnic Polish communities, and the Belarus offices of Western NGOs.