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Home-Birth Mother Acquitted In Daughter's Death In Belarus

Olga Stepanova in court during her trial. (file photo)

VITSEBSK, Belarus -- Following a retrial in a high-profile manslaughter case, a Belarusian court has acquitted a woman whose newborn child died after a home birth.

The Vitsebsk Regional Court in eastern Belarus found Olga Stepanova not guilty on January 25, clearing her of any criminal liability for her daughter's death.

Stepanova, who lives in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, did not attend the hearing.

Stepanova arrived at her mother's home in Vitsebsk in the autumn of 2016 and gave birth to a daughter there in February 2017.

She says she noticed that the baby was not breathing and asked her mother to call an ambulance.

Her daughter was pronounced dead at the hospital, and doctors say the baby died of asphyxiation by amniotic fluids.

Before the child was born, Stepanova refused in written form to give birth to her child in a medical institution.

Arrested in May 2017, she was convicted of unintentional manslaughter in September and sentenced to six months in a colony settlement, a penitentiary in which convicts live close to an industrial facility or a farm where they work.

Because Stepanova had spent four months in pretrial detention the judge ruled that the last two months of her sentence should be replaced by an order not to leave Vitsebsk.

In November, the Vitsebsk Regional Court threw out the verdict and ordered a retrial.

Belarusian laws do not prohibit home births.

Stepanova, 31, has a two-year-old daughter who was delivered at home.

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