Two go on trial over Minsk bomb blast

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 15, 2011 8:04 AM
Two go on trial over Minsk bomb blast

MINSK (Reuters) - Two men went on trial on Thursday on terrorism charges connected with a bomb blast at a central station of the Minsk metro in April which killed 15 people and injured scores of others.

Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, who were arrested three days after the April 11 explosion, could face the death penalty if convicted.

Apart from the Minsk metro blast, Belarus justice officials have linked the two men to other blasts, including one on Independence Day in 2008 and several explosions in the town of Vitebsk in 2005.

Authorities threw a ring of steel around the Minsk courthouse for the opening of the trial.

Scores of police, special forces and state security agents filled the premises and the two accused were themselves held in a steel cage inside the courtroom.

The Minsk bomb attack, on a packed metro station platform at evening rush-hour, took place against a background of political tension and a currency crisis which was then just getting under way in the ex-Soviet republic of 10 million people.

Authorities now say they do not see any political overtones to the bomb attack.

But President Alexander Lukashenko, the autocratic leader who has ruled since 1994, said at the time that he saw it as an attempt to destabilize the country.

(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Jon Boyle)