European Council Urges Belarus to Abolish Death Penalty

Posted November 30th, 2011 at 9:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The Council of Europe has urged Belarus not to execute two men found guilty of carrying out a subway terrorist attack in Minsk.

Secretary General Thornbjorn Jagland called on Minsk on Wednesday to discard the death penalty for Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov and put a general moratorium on executions. He noted that Belarus is the only European country that practices capital punishment.

Earlier Wednesday, Konovalov and Kovalyov were sentenced to death by firing squad in connection with the April 11 blast inside a Minsk underground station. The explosion killed 15 people and wounded more than 200 others. The judge said they represent an extreme danger to society.

The date of the execution has not yet been set, but the Supreme Court's ruling is final and can not be appealed. Persons sentenced to death can only ask the president for a pardon.

Jagland said that the crime perpetrated by the two men was “barbaric” but that their punishment should not be the same.

Konovalov and Kovalyov, both 25 years old, were arrested three days after the April 11 explosion, which took place on a packed metro platform during the evening rush-hour. Belarus authorities have also linked the pair to other non-fatal bombings in 2005 and 2008.

Rights activists had also called on authorities in the former Soviet republic not to impose the death sentence.

Throughout his presidency Alexander Lukashenko has only once granted a pardon, commuting the death penalty to a 20-year prison sentence in 1996.