A U.S. citizen wanted by the F.B.I. on charges including assaulting police officers at the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been granted asylum in Belarus, state media for the repressive Eastern European country announced.
Evan Neumann, a former California resident whom prosecutors in Washington have accused of more than a dozen crimes, including striking police officers and using a metal barricade as a battering ram, left the United States soon after the riot last year.
After crossing into Belarus near the southwestern city of Pinsk last August, Mr. Neumann, 49, formally applied for asylum, according to state media. Belarusian authorities confirmed Tuesday that the request had been granted, airing footage on Belta, the state news agency, that appeared to show Mr. Neumann, 49, formally signing an immigration document.
“Now you are completely under the protection of the Republic of Belarus,” said an official identified by Belta as Yuriy Brazinskiy, an immigration official in Brest, the city where Mr. Neumann is living. The status was valid for “an indefinite period of time,” Mr. Brazinskiy said.
Mr. Neumann said he was grateful, but called the experience “bittersweet, like eating cranberries.”
But, he added, “I feel safe in Belarus, especially compared to my compatriots in America.”
The F.B.I. said in an email that Mr. Neumann was still wanted but declined to comment further.
The small Eastern European nation has been headed for almost three decades by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has wielded his power to violently crack down on thousands of people protesting an election in 2020 that many Western nations called rigged. His main political opponent was forced to flee the country, and human rights groups have criticized the government for its impunity in persecuting journalists and opponents.
Last year, Mr. Lukashenko ordered the interception of a Ryanair flight over Belarusian airspace carrying a prominent dissident journalist, an act that some European countries denounced as a “state hijacking.”
Mr. Neumann, who owns a bag-making company and had resided in Mill Valley, Calif., according to prosecutors, said in previous interviews with Belarusian state media that friends had warned him he was on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list.
In documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, prosecutors said that body camera footage from police officers showed Mr. Neumann verbally abusing police officers.
“I’m willing to die, are you?” he apparently said to one officer. He also used his hands and fists to strike a police officer through a metal barricade before using the barricade as a battering ram aimed at officers, the documents said. And he resisted orders to leave the Capitol steps, the complaint said, and used expletives to refer to police officers.
Mr. Neumann has denied striking officers, or committing any crimes, and has said in interviews with Belarusian state media that he traveled to Europe last February on a business trip, passing through several European countries before settling in Ukraine, a country he had previously visited, for four months.
But he felt that the Ukrainian authorities were tracking him, he said, and decided to go to Belarus, which he described as “against the West.”
He said his new status in Belarus meant he was now able to travel to other parts of the country, including the capital, Minsk, but that he would settle in Brest. “I have started a life here,” he said.