A man wanted by the FBI, who allegedly attacked police officers in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, has fled to Belarus and is trying to apply for political asylum there, according to local media.
Evan Neumann, who according to a March 23rd District of Columbia lawsuit is wanted on six criminal charges, told a state television broadcaster in Belarus on Monday that he is avoiding prosecution. The charges also include disorderly conduct and forced entry into the Capitol.
Neumann, who according to the court record is from Mill Valley, California, said in the interview that his lawyer had advised him to travel to Europe on business.
Neumann also said he arrived in Italy in March and then left for Ukraine. After a few months there, he said Ukrainian security agents had started following him, prompting him to walk across the border to Belarus, where he was arrested by border guards.
“It’s terrible. It’s a political persecution, not a criminal investigation, but a political persecution,” Neumann said of the charges against him.
“I don’t think I did anything bad,” he added. “One of the allegations was particularly offensive, namely that I hit a police officer. There is no reason for that.”
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to whether the Neumann government would grant asylum.
According to the Justice Department document, a mob of Donald Trump supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to stop the vote count and overthrow the victory of President Joe Biden, a man who was videotaped and identified as Neumann pushed a barricade into the officers and hit several officers before asking, “I’m ready to die, right?”
The Justice Department has indicted hundreds of rioters from almost every state, while the House of Representatives committee investigating the attack interviewed more than 150 people and issued subpoenas to several former Trump employees.
The FBI did not immediately respond to calls and emails asking for comments on Neumann’s wanted status and pending charges.
In a TV interview, Neumann said that he encountered all sorts of dangers while walking to Belarus.
“I was moving very quickly. I fell into quicksand once and it was a big challenge to get out of,” he said. “I’ve seen wild boars, stumbled on snakes, vipers are very aggressive in August. Swamps, wild boars, snakes, bogs, all of that was new to me, of course.”
The court record states that Neumann “participated in the Ukrainian Orange Revolution” in 2004 and 2005, according to LinkedIn profile, when mass protests followed allegations that a presidential election was riddled with fraud and wrongdoing.
NBC News sent a message to Neumann on LinkedIn, but he didn’t respond.
Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the US embassy in Belarus, based in Vilnius, Lithuania, said in a statement: “We saw Belarusian state media reporting on Mr Neumann can say about individual US citizens.”
He added: “The United States condemns the Lukashenko regime for its brutal actions against members of civil society, the media, athletes, students, lawyers and other citizens.”
The authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has accused the US of orchestrating attempts to overthrow him and his government.
The US and many European countries have repeatedly criticized Belarus and Lukashenko and imposed economic sanctions for handling a controversial presidential election in 2020. Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, has been in power for 27 years.
A popular post-election protest movement calling for democracy and accountability in Belarus has faced brutal crackdowns, widespread imprisonment and allegations of summary beating.
Tim Stelloh contributed.