Evan Neumann: US Capitol riot suspect gets asylum in Belarus

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Evan NeumannImage source, BelarusianTV/YouTube
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Evan Neumann told Belarusian state TV he faced "political persecution" in the US

A California man suspected of taking part in the US Capitol riots last year has been granted asylum in Belarus.

Evan Neumann fled the US after being charged in connection with the riots.

The 48-year-old first settled in Ukraine, before reaching Belarus where he asked for asylum - claiming he faced "political persecution" in the US.

A Belarusian official said Mr Neumann has been granted permission to remain in the country "indefinitely".

State officials also alleged that Mr Neumann had been forced to cross the Belarusian border "illegally" after attracting "interest from local secret services" in Ukraine.

Mr Neumann told Belarusian state-owned news agency Belta he had "mixed feelings".

"I am glad Belarus took care of me. I am upset to find myself in a situation where I have problems in my own country."

In July last year, Mr Neumann was charged on six different counts, including violent entry and assaulting police officers. He was accused of punching two police officers and using a metal barrier as a "battering ram" against police during the riots at the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021.

But, according to Mr Neumann, he had already sold his house and travelled across Europe to Ukraine.

After worrying the Ukrainian authorities were watching him, Mr Neumann says he crossed the border into Belarus on foot in August. Belarus does not have an extradition treaty with the US.

In November, Mr Neumann gave an interview to Belarusian state TV and rejected the charges against him.

"I do not believe that I have committed any crime," he said. "One of the accusations was very upsetting. It is alleged that I hit a police officer. That is baseless."

He said he was asking for "government protection" from Belarus because of the "political persecution" he faced in the US, including the FBI questioning his family and using a photo of him on its most-wanted list.

A video released by Belta on Tuesday showed an immigration official handing Mr Neumann a document confirming his refugee status and the head of the Brest police migration directorate, Yuryy Brazinski, told state TV that he will eventually be entitled to apply for citizenship.

"Now you are completely under the protection of the Republic of Belarus," the official says.

Mr Neumann is among more than 650 people who have been charged for their actions on 6 January, when supporters of then-US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to protest against the result of the 2020 election.

Belarus, led by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, has faced multiple US sanctions over alleged human rights abuses and its support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Neumann told state TV he planned to stay in the Belarusian city of Brest.

"I have started a life here," he said.

He added that he has plans "to move my family here," but noted that the decision would ultimately be up to his wife.

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Ros Atkins on... the US Capitol riot anniversary