The Minsk activist was cruelly battered on November 11, reportedly by police officers or Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s adherers. The Belarusian uthorities say he was drunk, which they say would justify the excessive use of force.
According to Raman Bandarenka’s sister Volha Kucharenka, the prosecutor’s office does not inform his family of the details of the investigation into the corresponding criminal case. However, she knows that Raman’s colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances are being investigated.
“We do not understand what they are doing. For example, they made an unannounced visit to Raman’s 86-year-old grandmother. They ask whether her grandson was addicted to alcohol. I thought that they rejected that version, but they are still sticking to it,” Volha Kucharenka said in an interview with Euroradio.
Witnesses may be inclined towards changing their testimony, she believes. They are asked if they really did not see Bandarenka staggering, or if his breath smelt of alcohol; questioning alleged suspects of the murder seems to be off the table, she added.
On November 11, plainclothes people arrived at the popular offstreet yard known as ‘Square of Change’ in Charvyakou Street and started to remove white and red ribbons (i.e. symbols in protesters’ colours) fastened on the fences. Raman Bandarenka, who resided in a block of flats not far from it, went out and asked what was going on. Bandarenka was put into a van and driven in an unknown direction.
Then Raman Bandarenka was taken to the neurosurgery unit from Tsentralny district police department where he spent about two hours. On November 12, the man slipped into a coma and died of severe head injuries. According to the Belarusian Interior Ministry, the policemen found ‘a citizen who got injuries in a fight’. Alyaksandr Lukashenka states that the deceased was ‘drunk’. But the medical papers anonimously published by health workers on Telegram say that there was 0% of ethanol in Bandarenka’s blood.
On the back of the accident, a number of sportspeople and Internet users familiar with the situation identified sports official Dzmitry Baskau and boxer Dzmitry Shakuta (who belong to Lukashenka’s coterie) in photos and videos of the masked persons who brutally attacked Raman Bandarenka. The two men have not commented on the suspicions yet. Belarusian human rights watchdogs called on the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office to open a criminal investigation into Bandarenka’s death and urged the police to search for those involved in the crime.
The General Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case over the death of Raman Bandarenka only in February. It was initiated under Part 3 Article 147 of the Criminal Code for intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm resulting in imprudent death. The General Prosecutor’s Office stressed that ‘there was found no involvement of the police officers in the infliction of bodily harm to R. I. Bandarenka’.
It should be noted that three journalists – Belsat TV crew Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as well as TUT.BY reporter Katsyaryna Barysevich – were sentenced to 6 months to 2 years in prison for covering issues related to the murder of Raman Bandarenka.