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Belarusian Court Sentences Subway Bombers to Death

A Belarusian court gave a death sentence to two men found guilty of organizing a subway bombing in the Belarusian capital in April, Judge Alexander Fedortsov said in Minsk today.

Dmitry Konovalov, 25, was found guilty of killing 15 and wounding more than 300 people when he remotely detonated a bomb hidden in a sports bag under a bench in Minsk’s busiest metro station on April 11. He was also found guilty of several other criminal offenses, including bombings in Vitebsk in 2005 and in Minsk in 2008. Konovalov only pleaded guilty to the Minsk 2005 and 2008 bombings, denying other charges and refusing to speak throughout most of the trial.

Vladislav Kovalev, 25, accused of assisting Konovalov in the terrorism plot, reversed his initial confession and denied all charges except counts of hooliganism in 2001 and 2002 in Vitebsk.

Both Konovalov and Kovalev said investigators had put them under illegal pressure in order to extort confessions, allegations the court disregarded as lacking proof.

“The charges are falsified, the court was misguided by the prosecution,” Liubov Kovaleva, mother of one of the defendants said after the sentence was announced. She said she will file a plea to President Aleksandr Lukashenko asking to pardon her son.

The April bombing in Minsk subway shook the former Soviet republic as it slipped into a major economic crisis, one of the most serious challenges to President Lukashenko since he came to power 17 years ago in 1994.

The trial began Sept. 15, the day after the country’s central bank devalued the national currency 38 percent. While the Belarusian ruble has lost two-thirds of its value since January, Lukashenko acknowledged falling support for him among the population this month by demanding that the government restore popular confidence in authorities no later than May 1, 2012.

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