A court in Belarus sentenced two men to death after convicting them of carrying out a deadly bombing on the capital's subway system that killed 15 people and wounded hundreds of others.
When the bombing happened at Minsk's busiest subway stop on April 11, Belarus was entering an economic crisis and critics of the ex-Soviet country's repressive government suggested that authorities may have resorted to terrorism in order to distract the country from the troubles. President Alexander Lukashenko denied the speculation.
Investigators said the sentenced men, Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, were driven by "hatred for humankind," not political motives. The two men also have been accused of three other nonfatal bombings in 2005 and 2008.
Konovalov and Kovalyov heard their sentencing Wednesday in silence and appeared morose.
The Supreme Court found that Konovalov, from the provincial city of Vitebsk, had constructed the bomb and had stayed with Kovalyov in his Minsk apartment just before the blast. Investigators said Kovalyov was aware of the blast plans.
But Konovalov's lawyer said the evidence presented in court was trivial and inconclusive. The evidence included a videotape of the subway station purportedly showing his client close to the blast site was of uselessly poor quality and he said experts found no traces of explosive materials on Konovalov after his arrest.
"There was no motive, not one piece of direct evidence shown," he said.
One of those injured in the blast also expressed misgivings.
"I came to the first session strongly convinced that those who did it were sitting in the dock, but now I don't have this conviction," Andrei Tyshkevich said.
Belarus is Europe's only country that still puts people to death, and rights activists claim around 400 people have been executed here since the 1991 Soviet collapse. The authoritarian country carries out executions with a bullet to the back of the head; the time and place is a state secret, and relatives of those executed are never told where the bodies are buried.