Doubts over Belarusian opposition journalist's death

New Statesman

European Parliament President demands independent investigation.

Friends and colleges attend the funeral of Belarus journalist Oleg Bebenin

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has asked Belarus authorities to launch an independent investigation into the death of prominent journalist and opposition figure Oleg Bebenin.

The founder of anti-establishment news portal Charter97 was found dead, hanging in his country house on the outskirts of the capital Minsk, last Friday.

The local police pronounced Bebenin's death as a suicide, claiming he had been under the influence of alcohol when he hung himself. However, the journalist's co-workers and friends suspect foul-play and argue that he showed no signs of depression.

Bebenin's website -, founded in 1988 - was facing pressure from Belarus' neo-Soviet authoritarian government headed by President Alexander Lukashenko. In addition, he had also been working on the presidential campaign of opposition leader Andrei Sannikov.

"I have now even more doubts that it was a suicide," said Sannikov - who was summoned for questioning at Minsk's regional prosecutor's office on Saturday - to Charter97 journalists.

"If they cannot determine the time of death with certainty, how can they say why the person has died?" he added.

Bebenin graduated in journalism from the Belarusian State University. In the 1990s, he was deputy chief editor of "Imya", an independent Belarusian newspaper.


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