1:38, — Politics
Aleh Byabenin, the founder of the website charter97.org, died two years ago.
Aleh Byabenin was found hanged in his summer house outside Minsk on September 3, 2010. The law-enforcement agencies hurried to say it was suicide. The death of the journalist raises many questions, Forensic experts even fail to say the exact date of his death – September 2 or 3.
Aleh did not leave a suicide note. Journalist's friends and colleagues, who were on the incident scene, found traces of violence on his body.
Representatives of the democratic community say about a “political murder”. Aleh was a member of the team of Lukashenka’s main opponent at the December 19 presidential elections – leader of European Belarus civil campaign Andrei Sannikov. Everyone remembers how confrontation with the regime ahead of the 2001 presidential elections ended for Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, Henadz Karpenka and Dzmitry Zavadski.
Andrei Sannikov’s team faced the most brutal crackdown. The presidential candidate was sentenced to five years in prison. His wife Iryna Khalip, who spent six weeks in a remand jail and four months under house arrest, was given 2 years of suspended sentence. Sannikov’s election manager Zmitser Bandarenka got 2 years’ sentence and underwent a spine surgery in prison. A spokesman for the presidential candidate, Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, was sentenced to 4 years in a medium security penal colony. Activists of Sannikov’s team were given from 3 to 4 years of imprisonment.
The charter97.org website faced the strongest pressure from the authorities in 2010. Four criminal cases were opened against the site and its editor Natallia Radzina; the office and journalist’s flat saw five raids; 20 computers were seized. Radzina was arrested on December 19 and thrown into prison for a month and a half. Journalists had to flee from the country and continue their work in Lithuania.
Natallia Radzina, editor of charter97.org:
“The death of Aleh ahead of the 2010 elections was a shock for all of us. It was the aim of the authorities – to fear independent journalists and press on the people who supported Andrei Sannikov in the election. No one didn't even think it was possible to quit and give up everything. It became clear the authorities were ready for everything, even for killings. The only thing we could offer in response was greater courage and selfless work to honour the memory of Aleh, figure out the truth and seek punishment for his killers.
“We will learn the truth about the death of our colleagues after the authorities change. A criminal case over the tragic death of Aleh Byabenin will be initiated to be investigated by the best experts.”
Andrei Sannikov, the leader of European Belarus civil initiative, a former political prisoner and presidential candidate:
“I think an independent investigation of Aleh Byabenin's death should be carried out, because as I understood from hints of security service officers in the KGB jail, the official version of his death has nothing in common with the reality. Aleh is still with me. He had plenty of energy. It didn't disappear. Today, I look and try to look at things through his eyes. Of course, we missed him during the presidential campaign, but on the other hand, I saw he continued to help us and his views and ideas mobilized many of our supporters.
I surfed the Internet today and found out that some websites mention the name of Aleh among the most prominent fighters for human rights and free speech in the world. He is put on a par with well-known human rights activists, public figures, Nobel Prize winners. I think Aleh deserved it. His cause, he devoted his life to, lives on. We cherish the memory of this great man.”
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