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Home-Birth Mother Convicted In Daughter's Death To Face Retrial In Belarus

Olga Stepanova (center) at a court hearing earlier this year.

VITSEBSK, Belarus -- A court in Belarus has thrown out the unintentional manslaughter conviction handed down to a woman whose newborn child died after a home birth.

The Vitsebsk Regional Court in eastern Belarus on November 3 struck down the verdict against Olga Stepanova and ordered a retrial.

A lower court in the city of Vitsebsk found Stepanova guilty on September 7 and sentenced her 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.

Stepanova appealed the verdict and sentence with the Vitsebsk Regional Court.

Stepanova, who lives in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, arrived at her mother's home in Vitsebsk last autumn and gave birth to a daughter there on February 17.

Stepanova 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.

She was arrested on May 5 and charged with unintentional manslaughter.

Belarusian laws do not prohibit home births.

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

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