Thursday, December 2, 2021

US Capitol rioters seek asylum in Belarus, state TV reports

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An American facing criminal charges for his participation in the January 6 riots at the US Capitol is seeking asylum in Belarus, the country’s state TV reported on Monday – a move that has sparked unrest. This could further escalate tensions between the former Soviet nation and the United States.

Ivan Neumann, a 48-year-old California man, admitted in an interview with state TV channel Belarus 1 that he was at the Capitol on January 6, but dismissed the charges, which include assault, obstruction of police and other crimes. The channel aired interview excerpts on Sunday and promised to release the full version on Wednesday.

“I don’t think I’ve committed any sort of offence,” Neumann said, according to comments from his Belarus 1 interview. “One of the allegations was very objectionable; It is alleged that I killed a police officer. It has no basis.” Newman spoke English but the dubs were barely audible under Russian.

Newman, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, stood in front of a police barricade as a crowd of pro-Trump rioters tried to force past officers, US court documents say. Prosecutors say Newman taunted and yelled at police before putting a gas mask on his face and threatening an officer that police would be “overrun” by the mob.

“I’m ready to die, right?” Prosecutors quoted Newman as telling the officer.

According to court papers, police body camera footage showed Newman and others pushing a metal barricade into a line of officers trying to push the crowd back before punching the two officers with their fists. Were.

Newman was identified by investigators after someone who they said was a family friend called Newman’s name and an FBI tip line with his hometown of Mill Valley, California. He was charged with a US federal criminal complaint, meaning that a judge agreed that investigators presented sufficient probable cause that Newman had committed the crimes.

Newman is one of more than 650 people who have been charged for his actions on January 6, when a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol building and delayed congressional certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

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Newman told Belarus 1 that his photo had been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list, after which he left the country on the pretext of a business trip. Neumann, who owns a handbag manufacturing business, traveled to Italy in March, then traveled to Ukraine via Switzerland, Germany and Poland and spent several months there.

He said he decided to illegally enter neighboring Belarus after being monitored by Ukrainian security forces. “It’s awful. It’s political persecution,” Newman told the TV channel.

Belarusian border guards detained the American in mid-August when he tried to enter the country, and he requested asylum in Belarus. Belarus does not have an extradition treaty with the US

The US embassy in Belarus declined to comment. The US Justice Department said it “does not comment on the existence or non-existence of apprehension requests to foreign governments.”

The anchors of Belarus 1 described Newman as “an ordinary American whose store was burned down by members of the Black Lives Matter movement demanding justice, asking uncomfortable questions, but almost everything else.” Lost and being persecuted by the US government.”

In a brief preface to the interview, the Belarus 1 reporter also said that “something” called Newman “a run from a country of fairy tale freedoms and opportunities” – a clear leaning towards the US, which has criticized Belarus for human rights abuses. Many sanctions have been imposed against and violent crackdown on dissent.

Belarus was shaken by months of mass protests that the opposition and the West have denounced as a sham after election officials gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in the August 2020 presidential election.

Lukashenko’s government violently cracked down on the protesters, arresting more than 35,000 people and severely beating thousands of them. The action sparked widespread international outrage.

Associated Press writer Mike Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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