Aleh Biabenin’s friend tells about circumstances surrounding his death
A friend of Aleh Biabenin. the editor of the web site Electroname.com writes about what was happening on the day of the tragedy and the days before it.
The article by Fiodar Pauliuchenka was published on the web site Electroname.com.
On 6 September the founder and the head of the leading opposition Belarusian web site charter97.org Aleh Biabenin was buried. Aleh was found hanged in his summer cottage near Minsk on 3 September. The law enforcement agencies continue to insist it was a suicide. I was Aleh’s friend, I have known him for 10 years and I don’t believe that Aleh committed a suicide voluntarily. I would like to explain my doubts and tell what was going on the day before the tragedy and on the day when the body of the journalist was found. I have already told everything to the investigator of the regional procuracy, but unfortunately much of what is told in the media does not correspond with the reality.
A week before the tragedy Aleh came back from Greece. He and his family spent two weeks of their vacation there. We did not meet after his return, but communicated through Skype every day. It was a daily ‘ritual’ (Internet users will understand), exchange of references, media-viruses. On Thursday he was as usually joking a lot, sent me some references to photo sessions of some women, a telephone review of Exler. All the morning he was talking me into going to see the movie Machete. He was waiting for this ‘comedy horror movie’ of the cult Rodriguez and Tarantino for half of the year, showing the trailer and retelling articles of the world press. They have a company of friends which traditionally goes to see such movies. I promised to think it over, but closer to the afternoon I decided not to go, it was necessary to stay with my family at home. On that day I asked him to lend me 400 US dollars and Aleh suggested that we meet at 8 p.m. near the Kastrychnik cinema. He promised to bring the money with him. However, I did not manage to come there at 8 p.m.
Aleh was not visible in Skype the next day, and around 1 p.m. his colleagues started asking me through Skype whether I had seen him. It turned out that he did not go to the movie and, in general did not talk to anybody from Thursday afternoon and nobody saw him. He was sought for in Minsk, one called to the police departments, hospitals and morgues. In the evening his relatives (his brother and his wife’s friend) went to his summer cottage, and told that Aleh was hanging in a loop. As far as I know he wasn’t going to visit his summer cottage. To be correct, he did not tell anybody that he was going there, that is why he was sought for in that place in last turn.
I could not stay aside, it was hard to believe that such a thing could have happened. I arrived to his summer cottage together with Aleh’s colleagues at about 7 p.m. It is such a quiet place, there is nobody there, neighbors’ houses are relatively far, and not a soul was there, except for a woman from the neighboring house who said that she had not seen Aleh either on Thursday or on Friday and just saw that there was a car, and that the light was on in his house (she went out of her house several times, the light was on at 11 p.m. and at 3 a.m.). The stove or the fireplace in Aleh’s house was not stoked and there was no smoke coming out of the chimney.
A criminalist and the assistant of the Prosecutor of Dziarzhynsk district arrived in an hour. I did not enter the house before their arrival, and I was invited as a witness after the preliminary examination and the photographing by the officers of law enforcement agencies. The body was already lying on the floor and I asked to show me the photo of how and where the body was hanging. Aleh was hanging on the rope of the hammock (the rope was a finger thick), he was wearing a jacket and shoes, the jacket was zipped tightly; there was a stool with a bent leg lying under his legs. Aleh’s half-bent legs were set against the floor. The body was hanging in the pass between the entrance hall and the large room under the staircase to the second floor. The rope had many knots on it and it was coiled around the beam (the base of the staircase) many times.
The criminalist unzipped Aleh’s jacket, searched his pockets and took several large bank notes of Belarusian Rubles (about 200-300 thousands in 50-thousand banknotes) out of a back pocket of his jeans. There was nothing more in his pockets. All documents, expensive phone and keys were lying neatly at the small table in the large room. There was also 400 USD in a small red book (international journalist certification). The version of a robbery and so on is completely excluded. There was no suicide note either.
According to the criminalist’s words, the body was warm and he suggested that the death came only several hours before. A policeman pulled up Aleh’s pullover. There were no visible tracks of damage at the front of the body. A little later I noticed, that Aleh’s left hand and his sleeve are dirty with soot, meanwhile a ‘scratch’ on the bone of the long finger was clearly seen (it was probably a dent from a stroke). The right foot drew my attention as it was unnaturally averted to the right at an angle of nearly 90 degrees.
An ideal cleanliness was present in the rooms, everything lay on its place, and there was a sensation that Aleh had not touched anything. Only the cover of an armchair lay carelessly in the large room and there were two empty bottles with the labels Belarusian Balsam and an empty wine glass near the armchair at the floor. There was no food, no other tracks of a person staying in the rooms.
There is a wardrobe in the intercommunicating room where the body was hanging, the doors of the upper shelves where open a little and there were curtains, cloths, an extension cord lying in a mess. It looked as if someone had been looking hastily for something at the shelf. There was a hummock in the adjoining room, the rope of which had been used.
All these terrible details still stand in front of my eyes, but I should tell about them in order to explain that the suicide version seems very suspicious to me. Do you think, whether a person could have planed going to the movie to watch a cult action film during the day time, joking on this occasion, and then could have sharply changed his mind to go to his summer cottage and hang himself? Whether Aleh could have drunk a liter of cheap alcohol, could have put the bottles in a plain view in such a way that nobody would have any doubts, but leave no suicide note (though he was a journalist)? Finally, why had he taken those 400 USD for me if he was going to commit a suicide?
I had the impression that the investigators are working only in one direction – seeking motives for the suicide, and other versions are simply ‘not interesting’ for them. Aleh was the head of the leading opposition site, was the key member of the election campaign of the candidate for presidency Andrei Sannikau and in these circumstances the version of ‘political assassination’ should be the basic one for the investigation.