Politics 17:03 08/02/2017

Alexander Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan in the spotlight of international media and human right defenders

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the decision by the Supreme Court of Belarus to extradite Russian-Israeli blogger Aleksandr Lapshin to Azerbaijan to stand trial for traveling to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and for criticizing Azerbaijani policies.

“Belarusian authorities should immediately release Alexander Lapshin and allow him to travel freely, without fear of reprisal for his work," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Writers should never be imprisoned for expressing their views."

Website of the Armenian-American newspaper Asbarez reports that earlier on Tuesday, the Armenian National Committee (ANC) and Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) of South America delivered a letter to the Ambassador of Belarus in Argentina in protest against Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan.

“We wish to convey our most sincere concern over the decision of the Republic of Belarus to grant the extradition of the digital journalist Alexander Lapshin to the Republic of Azerbaijan,” read part of the letter.
“As Argentine citizens and Armenians, we need to convey that we consider it extremely dangerous for Lapshin to be handed over to the Azerbaijan authorities, and we hope to be able to arrange a meeting as soon as possible so that we can discuss the matter.”

Meanwhile, Jewish portal IzRus writes that on getting off the plane, the blogger was accompanied by the heavily armed personnel of the Azerbaijani State Security Service. It is notes that on the photos published on several Azerbaijani websites, Lapshin is handcuffed, and two of the four guards accompanying him are armed with automatic assault rifles, one even has dagger. 

According to the article, there were people, who hoped for another outcome of the case even after the decision by the Supreme Court of Belarus, which upheld the verdict to extradite blogger to Azerbaijan. Lapshin’s girlfriend officially appealed to the Belarusian authorities, asking for additional protection for him. Foreign citizen, who has no ground to get a refugee status, but “faces serious concerns of threat of death penalty, torture, and other cruel, inhuman, and humiliating methods of punishment on returning to his homeland,” can have that protection. However, Belarus ignored her appeal.

Azerbaijani news agency Turan informs that the blogger extradited from Belarus to Baku on February 7 was taken to remand center N1 (Kurdakhani) of the Prison Service.՚

According to the head of the press-service of the Prosecutor General’s office Eldar Sultanov, currently, “necessary investigative measures” are held. However, he did not say any details.
The agency particularly notes that it is still unclear, who will protect Lapshin and who will investigate the case.

In its turn, British news agency BBC writes that the popular travel blogger known more for his wry observations than his political views has ended up in jail - and at the center of a geopolitical row - after visiting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and thumbing his nose at the Azerbaijani authorities. His latest trip has landed the 40-year-old Lapshin in a Belarusian jail, and politicians from four countries - including the Russian foreign minister and the President of Belarus - have weighed in on his case. 

Lapshin's involvement began when he visited the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in 2011 and 2012 and subsequently wrote about those visits in his blog. He was banned from visiting Azerbaijan by the local authorities.

Despite this he travelled to Azerbaijan in 2016, this time using a different passport. He holds Russian, Israeli and Ukrainian travel documents, and his Ukrainian passport has a slightly different spelling of his name, which apparently allowed him to bypass the ban.

Alexander 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 arrested at the request of Azerbaijan. He faces sentence from five to eight years of imprisonment.
After his visits to NKR in 2011 and 2012, Lapshin’s name was placed on Baku government’s blacklist. 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.

“Mr. Lapshin received a consular service by our diplomats. We know he is also a citizen of Israel. We look to take all measures to solve the situation with due respect for the rights of a Russian citizen, who is a citizen of Israel at the same time,” the minister noted.



Source Panorama.am
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