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Belarus 'To Invite European Experts' Over Journalist's Death

Aleh Byabenin ran the website and was highly critical of the government.
MINSK -- The Belarusian government says it is ready to invite experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to study the circumstances surrounding the death of a prominent opposition journalist, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh told journalists in Minsk on September 9 that the government had decided to invite one or two criminal experts from OSCE member countries to get acquainted with the circumstances surrounding the death of Aleh Byabenin.

Savinykh added that the decision was "an unprecedented step in the judicial practice not only in Belarus but in all Europe." But he stopped short of saying whether OSCE experts would take part in the investigation.

Byabenin was found hanged at his country house outside Minsk on September 3. Byabenin ran the website and was highly critical of the government.

Local prosecutors declared after an autopsy that Byabenin's death was probably a suicide, but Byabenin's colleagues and other opposition groups say they doubt the authorities' findings.

Meanwhile, the deputy chief of the OSCE's Minsk Office, Zhandos Asanov, confirmed to RFE/RL that the Foreign Ministry informed diplomats representing OSCE member states of its intention at a special briefing today.

"We usually do not give our own assessments on activities of this or that side," Asanov said. "However, I think that this proposal of the Belarusian side will be discussed in Vienna at the session of the OSCE's Permanent Council. I hope delegates of OSCE member states will make a decision on the matter."

He added that OSCE's office in Minsk would "certainly support the arrival of the criminology experts by all means and provide them with all necessary help."