MINSK -- The Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office says it has suspended an investigation into the death of Raman Bandarenka, the anti-government protester whose killing in November 2020 intensified unprecedented protests demanding the resignation of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka following a disputed election.
The Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement on September 17 that the probe was suspended because a suspect had yet to be identified in the case, adding that the case had not been closed and the probe can resume if information on a suspect arises.
The 31-year-old Bandarenka died in hospital on November 12 after he was reportedly beaten by masked security forces.
Bandarenka's last known written words, "I'm going out," have turned into one of the slogans of the protests against Lukashenka that have been held across the country since the presidential poll in August last year that the opposition says was rigged.
It remains unclear who exactly killed the activist, but videos recorded the incident from a distance, and many in Belarus believe the former chief of the country's national ice hockey federation, Dzmitry Baskau, martial arts champion Dzmitry Shakuta, and Lukashenka's spokeswoman Natallya Eismant were present. None have been officially questioned in the case.
Bandarenka's sister Volha Kucharenka told RFE/RL that her family was shocked because nobody informed them about the decision to suspend the probe.
"We learned about it from the Internet.... It took a lot for us to make it possible to launch the investigation....There were many witnesses who saw what happened and there were so many video recordings taken at the site at that moment from different angles. But they were reluctant to start the investigation and only did so three months later," Kucharenka said, adding that she believes there's reason to believe that the investigators did not want to find the perpetrator to start with.
Several protesters have been killed and thousands of people arrested since authorities declared Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, the landslide winner of the vote.
There have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.
Most of the country's opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.