12:43 20/12/2016

Israeli Foreign Ministry’s attempts to prevent blogger Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan over visiting NKR under the spotlight of Israeli media

Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin, who was arrested in Belarus at the request of the Azerbaijani government, faces extradition to Azerbaijan over his visits to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Israel is negotiating for his release, Haaretz reports.

It is noted in the article that Alexander Lapshin wrote several critical posts against Azerbaijan and its president, IlhamAliyev, in recent months. His family is afraid that if he is extradited to Azerbaijan, his wife will be in danger.

Lapshin writes a blog in which he records his travels throughout the world. On December 13, he and his wife arrived in the Belarus capital, Minsk. A day later, Lapshin wrote on his Facebook page that he had been arrestedat the request of Azerbaijan. He faces sentence from five to eight years of imprisonment.

It is reminded that after his visits to NKR in 2011 and 2012, Lapshin’s name was placed on Baku government’s blacklist; however, last June he entered Azerbaijan, using a Ukrainian passport. In subsequent blog posts, Lapshin criticized the poverty in certain parts of the capital, Baku; the dictatorial rule of President Aliyev, and his politics in the Karabakh issue.

The Azerbaijani prosecutor general issued an international warrant for Lapshin’s arrest not only because of his visits to NKR, but also because of his posts, in which he expressed his support for the independence of the region.

It is highlighted that Israeli politician KseniaSvetlova from the Zionist Union is assisting Lapshin and his family. Last week, she told Haaretz that he had been detained in a state investigation facility with the threat of extradition to Azerbaijan hanging over him. She turned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and asked them to intervene in order to try to secure Lapshin’s release and prevent his extradition to Azerbaijan. The Israeli Embassy in Minsk already met with Lapshin’s wife and has yet to visit Lapshin to check on his situation. Lapshin’s friends confirmed that the embassy is in contact with the Lapshins and is trying to help them.

“I turned to the Foreign Ministry and asked them to help Lapshin, as they are obliged to help Israeli citizens in distress. I feel things are being conducted very slowly so far. There’s a genuine threat that they will extradite him to Azerbaijan this week, and I expect the Foreign Ministry to exercise all its influence in order to prevent that – because it’s liable to endanger his life,”Svetlova said.

In his turn, a senior Foreign Ministry official said that the Israeli embassy in Minsk officially asked the Belarus Foreign Ministry to allow the Israeli consul to meet Lapshin and demanded authorities “not to take irreversible steps” – meaning not to extradite him to Azerbaijan. 

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is concerned that the blogger’s arrest will create tensions between Israel and Azerbaijan. Lapshinwas arrested in Minsk a day after the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Baku, where he met Aliyev. 

It is also noted that Lapshin’s lawyer is currently working to secure his release, until any discussion takes place over his possible extradition to Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the head of the Azerbaijani Human Rights Center, EldarZeynalov, told the website EkhoKavkaza that Lapshinwas arrested, probably because a warm relationship has been formed between Azerbaijan and Belarus recently. According to him, the two countries are similar in their approach to the criticism, freedom of expression, and they have possibly hit it off.

In Zeynalov’s opinion, Alexander Lapshin could have annoyed not Azerbaijan, but the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. In order to avoid international criticism, Lukashenko could have made an agreement with Azerbaijan on giving Lapshin to Baku, if the latter takes the critic away from his view.

Meanwhile, Israel Info writes that after his visit to Azerbaijan, well-known blogger Alexander Lapshinpublished a fragment from the Azerbaijani blacklist in his blog sent him by his friends:
“… my Azerbaijani friends write that their stupid Foreign Ministry awarded me up to four citizenships and moved my name from the 112th to the 16th place in the list. I watch and laugh like a horse, I can’tget this straight in my head that the whole Azerbaijani state is fighting against a blogger… I feel that the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry created a separate department for studying Sasha Lapshin, and hundreds of officials are working there with their black limos.”

It is emphasized that Lapshin assumes that very text became the reason for launching a criminal case against him in Azerbaijan, and it looks quite sensible.

“However, issuing an international warrant for arrest for similar offence and the actions of the Belarus authorities, who arrested a foreign citizen based on such ‘serious’ suspicion of a third country, are rather confirming Lapshin’s unflattering comments about the state structures of both countries,” the material reads.

Reportedly, the Israeli tourists should take into consideration that they are not secure from the authorities’ arbitrariness in “friendly” Belarus and Azerbaijan.

Blogger and traveler Alexander Lapshin earlier caused a wave of disturbance in Azerbaijan because of his posts from Baku, in which he wrote about the city’s slums, as well as his visit to Azerbaijan, where he had been included in the so-called blacklist of the Foreign Ministry for visiting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

Back in 2011, Lapshin called the blacklist of the Foreign Ministry an empty prop and warned that he would quietly visit Azerbaijan when necessary. Since his name had been included in the blacklist, he visited Azerbaijan twice, in 2012 and in June of 2016.

He particularly wrote about several nuances of the morally outworn working system of Azerbaijan’s border police, the database of which does not operate online, and the data exchange between various border-crossing points is carried out, in fact, in manual mode, which played into Lapshin’s hands.
Lapshin noted with irony that he could not get it straight in his head that “the whole Azerbaijani state is fighting against a blogger.” He also promised to visit Azerbaijan in 2017, and the authorities would quite probably “blow off” his visit again.

Besides, he wrote that he is disappointed by the country named Azerbaijan, which “fell into the hands of dullards, who defame not only the country’s image, but also the memory of their own dead.”
On December 15, it became known that Lapshin was detained in the Belarus capital at the request of Azerbaijan according to the article “public appeals directed against the state.” Pre-trial detention constituting a preventive measure of 2 months has been issued against the blogger.

Source Panorama.am
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