Experts: Death of Belarus journalist points to suicide, but further analysis may be needed

By: The Associated Press

VIENNA - Independent forensic experts have suggested a Belarusian probe into the death of a journalist may require more analysis, a leading security organization said in a statement Tuesday.

Authorities in Belarus say Oleg Bebenin, the founder and chief editor of the popular opposition website Charter97, committed suicide in September.

Others have alleged he was murdered and his hanging staged amid a crackdown on government critics and independent media in a state labeled Europe's last dictatorship.

A recent analysis of existing case material by two experts invited by the Belarusian authorities to assess the country's handling of the case found no reason to believe Bebenin was "hanged after death," the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement.

"In the view of the experts, the autopsy finding and the findings on the scene clearly point to the cause and manner of death being suicide by hanging," OSCE said.

However, the experts "noted some specific areas of possible further technical analysis that relevant Belarusian authorities may consider."

OSCE spokeswoman Virginie Coulloudon declined to provide more details, citing the ongoing investigation by Belarusian authorities.

The Norwegian and Swedish experts travelled to the Belarusian capital of Minsk last month at the request of Belarus. Their mandate was not to conduct a new inquiry but to assess the country's ongoing probe into the matter.

The experts met freely with relatives, friends, co-workers and witnesses, the OSCE said.


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