Prosecutor's office to look into death of Belarusian opposition journalist

The Belarusian Prosecutor General's Office will inquire into the death of opposition journalist and human rights activist Aleh Byabenin, whose hanged body was found on Friday.

Byabenin, 36, was one of the leading figures of the human rights organization Charter97 and ran the Charter97 website. The journalist's relatives found his corpse hanged in his summer house on the outskirts of Minsk.

"Members of the Prosecutor's Office are currently working at the scene. Deputy Prosecutor General Andrei Shved has left for there," Petr Kiselev, spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office said.

According to the preliminary estimation, the journalist committed a suicide, a police spokesman said.

Byabenin's body was found hanging, an overturned stool lied abreast. Two empty bottles of the Belorusky Balzam alcoholic drink were found in the house. The corpse has no injuries, the police spokesman added.

Charter97 International Coordinator Andrei Sannikov said he does not believe that Byabenin killed himself. "I was at the scene...Lots of facts give raise to doubts. No suicide note was found, and his last SMS to friends showed they planned to go to the cinema," Sannikov said.

Byabenin graduated from the Belarusian State University, in the 1990s he was deputy editor-in-chief in the Imya newspaper. He launched the Charter97 website in 1998. The journalist had a wife and two sons.

Byabenin had been harassed by the authorities on numerous occasions. In April 1997 he was abducted and in 1999, he was nearly beaten to death.

The British Index on Censorship group expressed deep concerns over the reported crime. "People in Minsk are very nervous, especially those close to Aleh...In recent months he had become increasingly concerned over the safety of fellow human rights activists and feared a return of the atmosphere of 1997-1999, when many dissidents disappeared in suspicious circumstances and Aleh himself was nearly killed," Mike Harris, Public Affairs Manager of Index on Censorship, who is currently in Belarus, said.

MINSK, September 4 (RIA Novosti)


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