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EU condemns Belarus for execution of alleged Minsk subway bombers

EU countries have condemned Belarus for executing two men, Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov, who were convicted of the 2011 Minsk subway bombing in a trial observers described as flawed.

Belarus minsk subway bombing suspects executed 19 03 2012Enlarge
The two suspects in the April 11 Minsk metro bombing, Dmitry Konovalov (L) and Vladislav Kovalev (R), sit inside the defendant cage during their trial in the Belarus capital on Nov. 30, 2011. Both men were executed this week. (VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union has criticized the execution in Belarus of two men convicted of the 2011 Minsk subway bombing

Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov were shot dead at an unknown time and location, according to the Associated Press. State television in Belarus reported their deaths late on Saturday night.

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They were accused of planting a bomb in the capital's Oktyabrskaya metro station during rush hour, causing a blast that killed 15 people and wounded 300 others. Both were convicted in November, on evidence that their defense lawyers described as inconclusive.

The two men "were not accorded due process, including the right to defend themselves," according to a statement issued on behalf of the EU's head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton.

Ashton had last week urged Belarus not to apply the death penalty, which the EU opposes under any circumstances. Belarus is the only country on the European continent to use capital punishment.

The decision to proceed with the executions regardless would further strain relations between Belarus and the rest of Europe, said the chief of staff to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ronald Pofalla. "[Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko thus drifts even further away from our European values," the AP quoted him as saying.

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The Guardian suggested that the executions were "Lukashenko's brutal riposte to recent moves against him by Brussels," after EU members recently recalled their ambassadors to Belarus and tightened sanctions against a number of senior Belarusian officials accused of repression.

Meanwhile Belarusian activists claimed the government was seeking to conceal the truth about the Minsk attack, which Lukashenko's opponents accused him of using to launch a crackdown against his critics. Some even suggested he could have ordered the bombing in a bid to detract attention from economic and social problems.

"The government was in a rush to throw a white shroud over all the contradictions and discrepancies in the case," one activist, Lyudmila Gryaznova, told the AP. "The execution of the so-called terrorists, whose guilt remains under suspicion, gives the appearance that the government is concealing the traces of the crime."

Konovalov pleaded guilty to the charges, while Kovalyov denied carrying out the bombing. Kovalyov had filed an appeal against his death sentence with the United Nations Committee on Human Rights and was awaiting a response, his mother told Radio Free Europe last week.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120319/eu-belarus-execution-minsk-subway-bombing