Belarus has executed both Minsk bombers: state TV

Belarus has executed both men convicted of a Minsk metro bombing that killed 15 people in the nation's worst attack since its post-Soviet independence, state television reported on Sunday.

The report came a day after the sister of one of the two men, Vladislav Kovalyov, who had pleaded not guilty to acting as an accomplice, told AFP she had been informed of her brother's execution by gunshot.

On Sunday state television reported that Dmitry Konovalov, convicted of carrying out the April 11 attack, had also been executed.

Konovalov did not plead for clemency and his family never spoke to reporters during the high-profile trial, which was covered extensively on Belarus state television and was accompanied by a crackdown on the opposition.

Both executions were carried out on Friday, the state television report said.

The blast struck a busy metro station near the office of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the nation of nearly 10 million people for almost 18 years.

The attack was immediately blamed by authorities on foreign and domestic enemies, leading to new restrictions on people's right to protest.

The quick investigation and lack of apparent motive for the two 25-year-old factory workers charged with the crime sparked suspicion that the security services wanted a pretext for a crackdown against Lukashenko's political foes.

Lukashenko on Wednesday refused to grant clemency to the two men.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had on Friday urged Belarus not to carry out the executions and when news of the first execution broke the following day condemned the decision to go ahead.

Britain's minister for Europe David Liddington also urged Belarus to suspend the death penalty, in a statement Sunday.

He noted too that "independent reports have raised serious and credible concerns over the standard of evidence and fairness of the trial that led to the conviction of these two men."

The president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, France's Jean-Claude Mignon, joined the condemnation of the executions.

"They have no place in a civilised society," he said Sunday.

Belarus, which has grown increasingly isolated from the West, is the last country in Europe to administer the death penalty, although the practice is highly secretive and no official statistics exist.

In a separate development Sunday, the first post-Soviet leader of Belarus, now a prominent opposition member, said Sunday he had been prevented from leaving the country in reprisal for new EU sanctions on Lukashenko's regime.

Stanislav Shushkevich said Belarus border guards had ordered him off the train at the border with Lithuania and told him to seek an explanation for the decision from the government in Minsk.

"It looks like I have been added to the no-travel list," Shushkevich told AFP by telephone.

Several prominent journalists and opposition members have also been barred from leaving the country in recent weeks.

Lukashenko's foes believe that his KGB security service has drawn up a special no-travel list in reprisal for the European Union's decision last month to pull its ambassadors from Minsk.

The diplomatic row broke out after an angry response from Minsk over the EU's decision to impose new economic sanctions on top Belarus officials the bloc holds responsible for human rights abuses.

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