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Minsk metro blast suspects go on trial, facing execution

15 september 2011, 16:41
Rescue team carrying a man injured in a deadly bomb attack at a metro station in Minsk, on April, 11, 2011.
Rescue team carrying a man injured in a deadly bomb attack at a metro station in Minsk, on April, 11, 2011.
The trial of two suspects in a deadly bomb attack on the Minsk metro opened in the Belarussian capital on Thursday, with the men facing the death penalty if convicted on terrorism charges, AFP reports.

The chief suspect, Dmitry Konovalov, 25, is accused of masterminding the bombing in a crowded metro station on April 11, while the second man, Vladislav Kovalev, also 25, has been charged as an accessory to terrorism.

Belarus is the only country in Europe to actively employ the death penalty and the judge could sentence the men to shooting by state executioners if they are found guilty.

The bomb, triggered as a train drew into a station during the evening rush hour, killed 15 people and wounded 200, in by far the deadliest attack in the country in the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The trial is being held open to the public in Minsk's House of Justice court and presided over by Alexander Fedortsov, the first deputy chairman of the country's supreme court.

The two suspects were held in a barred section of the courtroom, as around 100 people who suffered in the metro bombing attended the first day of the high-profile trial.

One of those injured in the bombing, Alexander Alexandriya, 20, walked into the courtroom on crutches and complained he had received only meagre compensation from the Belarussian government.

"In America, the victims of terrorist attacks are paid $250,000, but I was only paid 3.5 million (Belarussian rubles). That is $1,000. You can't buy health with that," he told AFP.

"I did not have any tears from the horror. My tears came when I realised how many people had suffered, and I felt sorrow for those who died... But we need to live," said his mother, Tatyana Alexandriya.

The two suspects have also been charged with involvement in attacks in their home city of Vitebsk and Minsk which injured more than a hundred people but caused no deaths.

The authorities have never given any clear motivations for the suspects to carry out the bombings but some officials have pointed to nationalist extremism.

The hasty arrests of two young blue-collar workers for a seemingly well-planned attack prompted a host of conspiracy theories, with some opposition supporters alleging the bombing was carried out on government orders as a pretext to launch a security crackdown.

After the attack, a Belarus KGB colonel now living in exile in Germany, Vladimir Borodach, told Russia's NTV channel that he suspected the men had been hired by top officials to be "used as mules, who simply carried the bags".

The Minsk metro bombings stunned Belarus and coincided with a massive government crackdown on the opposition following strongman President Alexander Lukashenko's controversial re-election victory in December last year.

The last executions in Belarus were reported in March 2010, when two men sentenced to death in 2009 for crimes including murder were executed by shooting, according to Amnesty International.

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