Death of journalist Aleh Biabenin looks rather suspicious from all sides
The journalist Aleh Biabenin, one of the founders and leaders of the civil campaign Charter’97, was found hanged at 5.30 p.m. on 3 September in his summer cottage not far from Minsk.
Aleh Biabenin was born in 1974. He graduated from the Belarusian State University, department of journalism. In 1990-ies he occupied the position of the deputy chief editor of Imya, an independent Belarusian newspaper. Since 1998 he was the founder and head of charter97.org website. Aleh Biabenin had a wife and two sons.
The investigation of his death is carried out by the Dziarzhynsk district procuracy.
The leader of the civil campaign European Belarus Andrei Sannikau stated he didn’t believe in the version about Aleh’s suicide:
’On request of the family, we have withheld information before the results of forensic expertisen. I visited the site of the tragedy and I must say that I do not believe in the suicide of Aleh Biabenin. Many things raise serious doubts. No suicide note has been found and the latest sms received by his friends shows he planned to go to the cinema on Thursday evening. A week ago Aleh and his family returned from a holiday in Greece. It is strange that the Interior Affairs Ministry is disseminating its story without waiting for the results of the expertise.
We had extensive plans, we met every day. Aleh is my friend; he is the main member of my team, a brilliant journalist and a very reliable person. I offer my sincere condolences to his wife, parents and relatives,’ Andrei Sannikau said.
The British human rights organization Index on Censorship raised concerns over the death of one of the leading journalists of Belarus as well.
Mike Harris, the Public Affairs Manager of Index on Censorship who is in Belarus now said:
‘People in Minsk are very nervous, especially those close to Aleh. No suicide note was found, and Aleh just hours before his death had made phone calls to arrange a trip to the cinema with close friends. In recent months he had become increasingly concerned over the safety of fellow human rights activists and feared a repeat of the period 97-99 where he was nearly killed, and scores of dissidents disappeared in suspicious circumstances.
The Presidential election must take place before February next year. Lukashenka is tightening the screw on human rights organizations, with arrests and mock executions of youth activists. This suicide has sent shock waves through civic society across Belarus,’ added the British human rights activist.
The Russian media are reporting that the death is likely to have been under the orders of the security services.
Sviatlana Kalinkina, chief editor of the Narodnaya Volia newspaper, received an anonymous threat letter which she connects with publication of an article about Aleh Biabenin’s death.
’Kalinkina – mean creature. Tell the truth about yourself. Live and dread. The hunt on traitors started. One more article and you’ll be finished’.