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22 Mar, 2022 18:22

Capitol riot suspect receives asylum in Belarus

Minsk grants asylum to California man fleeing ‘political persecution’
Capitol riot suspect receives asylum in Belarus

US citizen Evan Neumann has been granted asylum in Belarus after fleeing “political persecution” by the FBI in the form of six charges stemming from his alleged participation in the January 6 riot in Washington, DC, local media outlets have reported.

The Belarusian news outlet BelTA confirmed Neumann had received a document in the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Brest Regional Executive Committee affirming his refugee status.

I’m glad that Belarus has taken care of me,” Neumann told the outlet on Tuesday, praising the “calm” country for giving him shelter while admitting he was experiencing “mixed feelings” because “my country is in trouble.” The newly-minted refugee is one of over 700 people to be charged with a crime after attending the “Stop the Steal” rally-turned-riot on January 6.

Neumann was charged with six counts in an indictment filed last March, including assaulting, resisting or impeding a police officer; obstructing law enforcement during civil disorder; knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building; and violently entering the Capitol and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Initially traveling to Italy after allegedly finding himself on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, 48-year-old Neumann then traveled through Switzerland, Germany, and Poland to Ukraine, where he stayed for several months. However, he told Belarusian TV he soon came under surveillance there and opted to move on.

The former handbag manufacturer was detained by border guards upon trying to cross into Belarus in August, and subsequently requested asylum. Belarus does not have an extradition treaty with the US.

Neumann made a memorable (and possibly tongue-in-cheek) appearance on state media in November describing the difficulties of his voyage, from the “very challenging” process of escaping from the “quicksand” he’d supposedly fallen into, to the “swamps, boars, snakes, quagmires” he’d had to dodge in the course of his journey on foot through Pripyat, the Chernobyl exclusion zone – all of which was “new to me, of course.

While the indictment against Neumann claims he was captured on video assaulting a law enforcement officer outside the Capitol, Neumann has maintained his innocence throughout, calling the charges – especially the accusation of hitting a police officer – “offensive”. He was reportedly identified in the footage by a “family friend,” who called an FBI tip line to report his name and hometown of Mill Valley, California.

During his appearance on Belarusian state TV, he claimed he would face torture at the hands of the authorities, arguing he needed “government protection” and praising Belarus for “resist[ing] the West.” He promised at the time to be a “productive and good citizen,” suggesting he might get a job in IT and lamenting that both Belarus and Russia were being demonized by western media, calling the sanctions on both countries “a form of terrorism.”

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