An American who’s accused of punching a police officer during the Capitol riots is now seeking political asylum in the Eastern European country of Belarus.
Evan Neumann, a 48-year-old from California, appeared on Belarusian state TV on Sunday in a segment entitled “Goodbye, America!” in which he blamed Black Lives Matter for ruining the country and denied any wrongdoing in his actions on Jan. 6, calling the charges against him “unfounded.”
Neumann told Belarus 1 TV that he fled the U.S. on advice from a lawyer. He initially flew to Italy in March, before getting a train to Switzerland and then driving to Ukraine via Germany and Poland
Neumann rented an apartment in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr for four months, but he claimed in the interview that he was being followed by the Ukrainian secret service, the SBU.
So he decided to cross illegally into Belarus, According to Neumann’s retelling, this trip involved wading through swamps, encounters with wild hogs, and avoiding snakes, before he finally crossed the border into Belarus and was promptly arrested.
ABC reported in April that Neumann had sold his two-bedroom home in Mill Valley for $1.3 million, just after the Jan. 6 charges were filed.
The FBI is currently looking to speak to Neumann in connection to the role he played in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. A Department of Justice complaint accuses Neumann of striking a Capitol Police officer and of “using the barricade as a battering ram.”
In total, he’s facing five felony charges related to the Capitol insurrection, including assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers, obstructing law enforcement during civil disorder, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Belarus, which has been governed by authoritarian strongman Alexandr Lukashenko for 26 years, hasn’t commented on Neumann’s asylum case. Belarusian migration authorities declined to comment on the situation, citing confidentiality of personal data, the Russian state-run RIA Novosti reported Monday.
A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Belarus told VICE News: “We have seen Belarusian state media reporting about Mr. Neumann. Due to U.S. privacy laws, we are limited in what we can say about individual U.S. citizens.”
The embassy said questions about whether Neumann was being sought by U.S. law enforcement agencies should be directed to the Justice department. A spokesperson for the DOJ told VICE News: “The U.S. Department of Justice generally does not confirm, deny or otherwise comment on the existence or non-existence of requests for apprehension to foreign governments.”
This is not Neumann’s first time in this part of the world. According to the DOJ complaint, citing Neumann’s own Linkedin page, he took part in the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in 2004, which overturned the rigged presidential election of Viktor Yanukovych.
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