A California man suspected of taking part in the US Capitol riots last year (2021) has been granted asylum in Belarus.
The suspect, Evan Neumann, fled the US after being charged in connection with the riots. Neumann, 48, first settled in Ukraine, before reaching Belarus where he asked for asylum, claiming he faced “political persecution” in the US.
A Belarusian official revealed that Mr. Neumann has been granted permission to remain in the country “indefinitely”. State officials also alleged that Mr. Neumann was 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, that 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.”Evan Neumann
In July last year (2021), 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 January 6, 2021.
Mr. Neumann disclosed that he already sold his house and travelled across Europe to Ukraine. After worrying the Ukrainian authorities were watching him, Mr. Neumann said he crossed the border into Belarus on foot in August 2021, bearing in mind Belarus does not have an extradition treaty with the US.
In November 2021, Mr. Neumann gave an interview to Belarusian State TV and rejected the charges levelled against him.
“I do not believe that I have committed any crime. One of the accusations was very upsetting. It is alleged that I hit a police officer. That is baseless.”Evan Neumann
Neumann said he was asking for “government protection” from Belarus because of the “political persecution” he faced in the US. The persecution included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) questioned his family and had a photo of him on its most-wanted list.
A video released by Belta, a Belarusian State-owned media on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, showed an immigration official handing Mr. Neumann a document confirming his refugee status. 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.”Head of the Brest Police Migration Directorate, Yuryy Brazinski
Mr. Neumann is among more than 650 people who have been charged for their actions on January 6, 2021, when supporters of then-US President, Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol to protest against the result of the 2020 election.
Mr. Neumann told state TV he plans to stay in the Belarusian city of Brest. “I have started a life here,” he said.
He added that he plans “to move my family here,” but noted that the decision would ultimately be up to his wife.
Belarus, led by alleged authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has faced multiple US sanctions over alleged human rights abuses and its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.