Belarus upholds death penalty for two men

The Belarusian supreme court Friday upheld death sentences handed to two men found guilty of a triple murder in 2009, in defiance of European calls for a moratorium on capital punishment.

Oleg Grishkovtsov, 29, and Andrei Burdyko, 28, were sentenced to death on May 14 for murdering three people and kidnapping a minor during a robbery and arson attack on an apartment in the northwestern city of Grodno last year.

By law, the death penalty in Belarus is carried out by shooting and the executions are not publicly announced. It is not clear when the last execution took place in the country.

Rights activists say the bodies of those executed are not handed over to their families nor are relatives informed of their place of burial.

Belarusian rights activists on Friday denounced the ruling, accusing the authorities of beating the men in detention and denying them lawyers.

"The death sentence cannot be handed down based on facts obtained via violations," activist Roman Kislyak told Agence France-Presse.

Belarus is the only country on the European continent that does not belong to the Council of Europe rights body.

Its "special guest" status within the body was suspended in 1997 and cannot be reinstated until the country enforces a moratorium on capital punishment.

The country's hardline leader Alexander Lukashenko - who has ruled the ex-Soviet state since 1994 and was once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington - has angrily rejected the EU's condition for improving relations.


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