Californian accused of riots on January 6 seeks asylum in Belarus, state television reports

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – An American who faces criminal charges from the January 6 riot The United States Capitol is seeking asylum in Belarus, the country’s state television reported, in a move that could further escalate tensions between the turbulent former Soviet nation and the United States.

Evan Neumann of Mill Valley, Calif., Admitted in an interview with Belarus 1 that he was on Capitol Hill that day, but dismissed the charges, including assaulting police, obstructing and d other offenses. The channel aired clips of the interview on Sunday and Monday, and promised to release the full version on Wednesday.

“I don’t think I committed any kind of crime,” Neumann, 48, said, according to a Belarusian voiceover 1 of his interview remarks. “One of the charges was very offensive; he claims I hit a policeman. It has no reason to be. Neumann spoke in English but was barely audible under dubbed Russian.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin used the January 6 riots to accuse the United States of a double standard by criticizing other countries, including Russia and Belarus, for suppressing anti-government protests

Belarus has been rocked by months of protests after election officials granted Lukashenko a sixth term in the 2020 poll that the opposition and the West denounced as a sham. The government has launched a violent crackdown on protesters, arresting more than 35,000 people and severely beating thousands of them. The crackdown sparked widespread international outrage.

Putin has also come under criticism from the West for the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the detention of thousands of demonstrators protesting his arrest, and the ban on Navalny’s organizations as extremists. In an interview with NBC in June, Putin suggested that the hundreds of people arrested for riots on the United States Capitol were subject to “persecution for political opinions.”

U.S. court documents say Neumann stood outside a police barricade wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat as supporters of President Donald Trump tried to force officers through. Prosecutors said Neumann taunted and yelled at police before putting a gas mask on his face and threatening an officer, saying police would be “overwhelmed” by the crowd.

“I am ready to die, am I not? Prosecutors quoted Neumann telling the officer.

Police body camera footage shows Neumann and others pushing a metal barricade in a line of officers trying to push back the crowd before hitting two officers with his fist and then hitting them with the barricade, according to court documents.

Neumann was identified by investigators after someone who said he was a family friend called an FBI whistleblower line with Neumann’s name and hometown. He was indicted in a US federal criminal complaint, which means a judge agreed investigators presented sufficient probable cause for Neumann to commit the crimes.

Neumann is one of more than 650 people who were indicted for their actions on January 6, when pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol building and delayed Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Neumann told Belarus 1 that his photo was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List, after which he left the country on the pretext of a business trip. Neuman, who owns a handbag manufacturing business, traveled to Italy in March, then through Switzerland, Germany and Poland before arriving in Ukraine and spending several months there.

He said he decided to cross neighboring Belarus illegally after noticing the surveillance of Ukrainian security forces. ” It’s horrible. It’s political persecution, ”Neumann told the TV station.

Belarusian border guards arrested him as he attempted to cross the country in mid-August, and he sought asylum in Belarus. Belarus has no extradition treaty with the United States

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus, which is temporarily located in Vilnius, Lithuania, declined to comment. The US Department of Justice said it was not commenting on “the existence or non-existence of arrest requests made to foreign governments.”

Belarus 1 presenters described Neumann as an “ordinary American, whose stores were torched by members of the Black Lives Matter movement, who demanded justice, asked awkward questions, but had lost almost everything and was being persecuted by the US government.” . “

In a short preface to the interview, the Belarus 1 journalist also said that “something” prompted Neumann “to flee the land of fairytale freedoms and opportunities” – an apparent reference to the United States, which imposed multiple sanctions against Belarus for human rights violations. and its violent crackdown on dissent.

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Associated Press writer Mike Balsamo in Washington contributed.

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