Belarus has granted asylum to a US citizen suspected of participating in the Capitol riots last year after he fled there.
Evan Neumann, 48, initially fled to Ukraine, before arriving in Belarus, where he applied for asylum, claiming he was facing “political persecution” in the United States.
A Belarus official said Newman – who hails from California – has been granted residency in the country “indefinitely”.
The state official said that Neumann was forced to cross the border into Belarus “illegally”, after drawing the attention of “secret security services” in Ukraine.
Neumann told the local state-owned news agency Belta that he had “a mixture of feelings”.
“I am glad that Belarus took an interest in me, and I am upset to find myself in the position of a person who has problems in his homeland,” he added.
And last July, Newman was charged with six counts, including storming and attacking police officers. The man was accused of punching two officers, and using an iron stick to “beat” police forces, during the storming of the Capitol Building, which includes the headquarters of Congress, on the sixth of January year 2021.
But as for Neumann, he has already sold his house and traveled across Europe to Ukraine.
Concerned that Ukrainian authorities were watching him, Neumann said he crossed the border into Belarus, on foot, last August, and there is no extradition agreement between the United States and Belarus.
The American citizen rejected the accusations against him during an interview with Belarusian television, saying: “I can’t believe I committed any crime. One of those accusations was very disturbing, as it was stated that I hit a police officer. There is no basis for that story.”
He added that he had requested “the protection of the Belarusian government” because of the “political persecution” he faced in the United States, including the interrogation of the FBI with his family and the use of his picture on the “most wanted” list.
A video released by Belta Agency on Tuesday showed an immigration officer handing Neumann a document confirming his refugee status, and a Passport Service official said that Neumann would eventually be entitled to apply to become a Belarusian citizen.
“Now you are under the protection of the Republic of Belarus,” the official added in his interview with Neumann.
Newman is one of more than 650 people charged with taking part in the events of January 6, when supporters of former US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to protest the outcome of the 2020 election.
Belarus, led by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, has faced multiple US sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses and its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Neumann told state television that he intended to stay in the Belarusian city of Brest.
“I started a life here, and I have plans to move my family here,” he added, but indicated that the decision was ultimately up to his wife.
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