MOSCOW, Nov 23 (Reuters) - A prominent Belarussian opposition journalist found dead in September killed himself, Europe's main democracy watchdog said on Tuesday, confirming a police report which his colleagues had rejected.
Oleg Bebenin, whose website Charter97.org faced frequent investigations by President Alexander Lukashenko's government, was found hanged at his country house outside the Belarussian capital Minsk in early September.
"The experts' evaluation and analysis is that, on the basis of all the evidence and information available to them, the cause and manner of death was suicide by hanging," the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement.
Belarus, under international criticism over its treatment of independent media, had invited the OSCE to conduct an independent probe. [ID:nLDE6850QG]. Minsk has also asked the monitoring group to observe its December presidential elections.
Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994 behind Soviet-style command lines and scrapped presidential term limits, is widely expected to win the Dec. 19 election.
Bebenin's colleagues and opposition politicians rejected the original police probe, which said Bebenin had committed suicide, and instead claimed he had no reason to kill himself.
Opposition groups and critical media have faced pressure for years under Lukashenko. [ID:nLDE6821UZ]
Natalya Radina, an editor at Charter97.org, said the website has faced two investigations this year over material about the Belarusian security service, the KGB, and about a reader's comments.
The OSCE said its investigation suggested he had committed suicide. "In the experts' view, there is no reason to believe that Mr Bebenin was hanged after death," the OSCE said.
OSCE added that Minsk had made all the relevant investigation material available to them and that the group's experts "were able to meet freely with all persons they requested to see". (Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Jan Harvey)