Belarus grants asylum to suspect in US Capitol riot

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FILE - Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Evan Neumann, a former San Francisco Bay Area resident facing federal criminal charges from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, has been granted asylum in Belarus, the former Soviet nation's state media reported Tuesday, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – A former San Francisco Bay Area resident facing federal criminal charges from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has been granted asylum in Belarus, the former Soviet nation's state media reported Tuesday.

Evan Neumann, 49, was charged a year ago with assaulting police, including using a metal barricade as a battering ram during the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. In an interview with Belarus 1 channel that aired last year, he acknowledged being at the building that day but rejected the charges and said he did not hit any officers.

The move comes a month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden was heading to Europe to talk with allies about possible new sanctions against Russia and more military aid for Ukraine.

“Today I have mixed feelings,” Neumann told state-owned television network BelTA in the report aired Tuesday, the Washington Post reported. “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.”

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have used the Jan. 6 riot as evidence of a double standard by the U.S. on anti-government crackdowns.

Belarus is a Russian ally and neighbor to Ukraine. It does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S.

Neumann told Belarus 1 that he traveled to Italy in March 2021 and eventually arrived in Ukraine before crossing over illegally into Belarus. He owns a handbag manufacturing business.

Police body camera footage shows Neumann and others shoving a metal barricade into a line of officers before he punched two officers with his fist and hit them with the barricade, according to court papers. Court documents state Neumann stood at the front of a police barricade wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat in support of then-President Donald Trump.