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American facing Jan. 6 riot charges seeks asylum

According to Belarus’ official television, an American facing criminal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 incident at the US Capitol is seeking asylum in the country, escalating tensions between the volatile former Soviet nation and the United States.

Evan Neumann of Mill Valley, California, admitted to being in the Capitol that day in an interview with Belarus 1 but denied the charges, which include assaulting police, obstruction, and other violations. On Sunday and Monday, the broadcaster aired portions from the interview, promising to air the entire length on Wednesday.

According to a Belarus 1 voiceover of Neumann’s interview statements, “I don’t think I’ve done any form of criminal.” “One of the charges was particularly vexing; it claimed that I had struck a police officer. It’s not supported by any evidence.” Neumann talked in English, however his voice was scarcely discernible due to the Russian dubbing.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have both exploited the Jan. 6 riot to accuse the United States of applying a double standard in denouncing other nations, particularly Russia and Belarus, for suppressing anti-government protests.

Months of unrest erupted in Belarus when election officials granted Lukashenko a sixth term in a rigged 2020 election that was criticised by the opposition and the West. The authorities retaliated violently against the demonstrators, detaining over 35,000 people and severely assaulting thousands more. The crackdown was met with broad international condemnation.

Putin has also been chastised by the West for imprisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, detaining thousands of protesters in the wake of his arrest, and declaring Navalny’s organisations to be extremist. Putin claimed in a June interview with NBC that the hundreds of people arrested for rioting at the US Capitol were being “persecuted for political ideas.”

According to court filings, Neumann wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat and stood in front of a police roadblock while supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to force their way past policemen. Prosecutors allege that Neumann taunted and screamed at officers before donning a gas mask and threatening one officer, claiming that officers would be “overrun” by the throng.

Prosecutors described Neumann as asking to the officer, “I’m willing to die, are you?”

According to court documents, Neumann and others pushed a metal barricade into a line of officers who were attempting to drive the crowd back before punching two officers with his fist and then hitting them with the barricade.

After someone claiming to be a family friend called an FBI tip line with Neumann’s name and hometown, detectives were able to identify him. Neumann was accused in a federal criminal complaint filed in the United States, which means a judge concluded that investigators had established sufficient probable cause that he committed the crimes.

More than 650 people have been charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol building by pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 6, which delayed Congress’ recognition of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Neumann told Belarus 1 that his photo had been posted to the FBI’s most wanted list, following which he pretended to be on a business trip and departed the country. Neuman, who owns a handbag manufacturing company, visited Italy in March and then travelled through Switzerland, Germany, and Poland before arriving in Ukraine, where he stayed for many months.

He claimed he made the decision to unlawfully cross into Belarus after being observed by Ukrainian security forces. “It’s terrible. Neumann told the TV station, “It’s political persecution.”

In mid-August, he was caught by Belarusian border authorities while attempting to enter the country, and he requested refuge in Belarus. Belarus and the United States do not have an extradition pact.

The US Embassy in Belarus, which is temporarily based in Vilnius, Lithuania, did not respond to a request for comment. The US Justice Department stated that it does not comment “on the existence or nonexistence of requests for extradition to foreign governments.”

“Simple American, whose stores were burned down by members of the Black Lives Matter movement, who was seeking justice, asking unpleasant questions, but lost practically everything and is being punished by the US government,” the Belarus 1 anchors said of Neumann.

In a brief introduction to the interview, the Belarus 1 reporter also stated that “something” caused Neumann to “flee from the country of fairytale freedoms and opportunities” — an apparent reference to the United States, which has sanctioned Belarus for human rights violations and violent repression of dissent.

News Desk

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