A man wanted by the FBI for allegedly assaulting police officers at the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has fled to Belarus and is attempting to claim political asylum there, according to local media.
Evan Neumann, who according to a March 23 District of Columbia court filing is wanted on six criminal charges, told a state-run TV news channel in Belarus on Monday that he is escaping persecution. The charges also include disorderly conduct and violently entering the Capitol building.
Neumann, who according to the court filing is from Mill Valley in California, said in the interview that his lawyer had advised him to travel to Europe for business.
Neumann also said he had arrived in Italy in March and then made his way to Ukraine. After some months there he said Ukrainian security officials started to follow him, prompting him to travel by foot over the border into Belarus, where he was detained by border guards.
“It’s terrible. It is a political persecution, not a criminal investigation but political persecution,” Neumann said of the charges against him.
“I do not consider myself having inflicted any harm,” he added. “One of the charges was particularly insulting, namely, that I hit a police officer. This has no grounds at all.”
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the government was planning on granting asylum to Neumann.
According to the Justice Department document, on Jan. 6 as a mob of Donald Trump supporters attacked the Capitol in a bid to halt the electoral vote count and overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, a man captured on video and identified as Neumann pushed a barricade into officers and punched multiple officers before asking, “I’m willing to die, are you?”
The Justice Department has laid out charges against hundreds of rioters from nearly every state, while the House committee tasked with investigating the attack has interviewed more than 150 people and issued subpoenas to several former Trump associates.
The FBI did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment on Neumann’s wanted status and outstanding charges.
In the TV interview, Neumann said that during the journey on foot to Belarus he had encountered all manner of hazards.
“I was moving very fast. I fell into some quicksand once and it was very a challenge to get out from it,” he said. “I have seen wild boars, stumbled upon snakes, vipers in August are very aggressive. Swamps, boars, snakes, quagmires, all this was new to me, of course.”
The court filing notes that according to Neumann’s LinkedIn profile, he “participated in the Ukrainian Orange revolution” in 2004 and 2005, when mass protests followed claims that a presidential election was beset with fraud and malpractice.
NBC News messaged Neumann via LinkedIn but he did not respond.
Tim O’Connor, spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Belarus, currently based in Vilnius, Lithuania, said in a statement: “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.”
He added: “The United States condemns the Lukashenko regime for its brutal measures against members of civil society, the media, athletes, students, legal professionals, and other citizens.”
Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has accused the U.S. of orchestrating attempts to depose him and his government.
The United States and many European states have repeatedly criticized Belarus and Lukashenko, and imposed economic sanctions over his handling of a disputed presidential election in 2020. Often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Lukashenko has been in power for 27 years.
A popular post-election protest movement calling for democracy and accountability in Belarus was met with a brutal crackdown, widespread detentions and allegations of summary beatings.
Tim Stelloh contributed.