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17 Mar, 2012 12:44

Minsk subway bombers executed

The two men convicted of the April 2011 Minsk subway bombing have been executed according to Belarusian state television. EU members had urged Belarus not to carry out the executions and have strongly condemned them.

The announcement on Sunday came after Vladislav Kovalev, who had pleaded not- guilty to the charges, was reportedly executed on Friday. A letter from the Belarusian Supreme Court arrived at his family home confirming the sentence had been carried out.“I have received a note from the Supreme Court dated March 16 saying the verdict has been implemented. I think he had already been shot on March 15,” Kovalev’s mother told Itar-Tass news agency on Saturday.The letter that arrived at Vladislav Kovalev’s family home in the city of Vitebsk had been signed by the deputy chairman of the Supreme Court.“I have received a note from the Supreme Court dated March 16 saying the verdict has been implemented. I think he had already been shot on March 15,” Kovalev’s mother told Itar-Tass news agency on Saturday.Tatyana Kozyar, Kovalev’s sister, uploaded a copy of the letter to the Russian social networking site Vkontakte with the caption “They’ve killed Vlad.” State television also confirmed Dmitry Konovalov's execution. Defense lawyers and human rights activists say the ruling was based on trivial and inconclusive evidence. Western governments have been urging Lukashenko to call off the execution, as Belarus remains the sole European country to still use the death penalty. But during the 20 years of his rule, Lukashenko pardoned only one person.The Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjorn Jaglad noted that no other country in Europe exercises capital punishment: "With its disrespect of basic human rights and democratic standards, the government of Belarus is increasingly isolating its country and its people from the rest of the world." EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed her condolences to the families of the men executed. She added that there was clear evidence that neither were accorded due process "including the right to defend themselves."Human rights activists are outraged with the government's rush to carry out the execution without even giving society an opportunity to learn the truth. "The government was in a rush to throw a white shroud over all the contradictions and discrepancies," Lyudmila Gryaznova, Vice-Chairperson of the United Democratic Party of Belarus said.The two convicted parties, Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev, had been refused clemency by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, as the state media reported on March 14. The desicion came despite Kovalev filing an official plea to Lukashenko to pardon him.A court ruling for the April 11 terrorist attack, which killed 15 people and injured more than 200 people in the Minsk subway, was rendered in November 2011.Konovalov was found guilty of perpetrating the blast. He was also convicted of a previous July 2008 Independence Day bombing in Minsk, as well as terror attacks carried out in Vitebsk in September 2005. He pleaded guilty to all of the charges, except the Vitebsk incident.At the same time, Kovalev was convicted of delivering the explosive device and assisting in detonating it. The court also said Kovalev had been aware of Konovalov’s long standing terror activities, but never reported him to the police.Unlike Konovalov, Kovalev denied the charges. He said prosecutors had extracted his initial confession through coercion. His mother is still convinced Kovalev was not involved in the terror attack on the Minsk subway.