Belarus opposition says journalist death not suicide


MINSK, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Belarus' opposition on Monday rejected a police statement that the death of a prominent journalist last week was suicide, saying Oleg Bebenin had no reason to kill himself.

Bebenin, the director of one of the most prominent opposition media outlets in Belarus was found hanged on Friday. His website,, had faced sustained pressure from the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Neither his recent behaviour nor his behaviour on the day (of his death).... gave any indication such a tragedy might occur by his own hand," opposition leader Andrei Sannikov told Russia's Rossiya-24 news channel.

Relatives found Bebenin, 36, hanged at his weekend house outside the capital Minsk, Charter97 said. Police on Saturday said they believed he had committed suicide as there were no signs that Bebenin had been assaulted.

"There was no motive for such an act," said Dmitry Bondarenko, one of the editors of, referring to suicide. He said there was no suicide note and Bebenin enjoyed his work and had the support of a loving wife and children.

Opposition groups and critical media have faced pressure for years under Lukashenko, who tolerates little dissent in the former Soviet republic of 10 million people. says it has faced two investigations this year and that its staff have been subject to searches and questioning.

Bebenin was a member of Sannikov's planned campaign against Lukashenko, in power since 1994, in a presidential election due in the next six months.

Lukashenko's position has been weakened by disputes with both Russia and the West, who he has accused of seeking to undermine his authority.

The United States and European Union have long shunned Lukashenko, accusing him of maintaining power through unfair elections and restricting rights and freedoms.

Ties with Russia, badly damaged by a series of trade spats, hit a low this summer when Russian state television broadcast a documentary detailing allegations of corruption by Lukashenko's administration. In a sign of the tension between Lukashenko and the Kremlin, Bebenin's death has been covered by Russia's state-controlled media, which typically remains silent about accusations of corruption and state-sponsored violence in friendly countries.


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