BAKU, Azerbaijan (A.W.)— On July 20, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin, who was arrested last December, to three years in prison on a charge related to his 2011 and 2012 visits to Artsakh.
The court ruled that Lapshin illegally crossed Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders when he traveled to Artsakh through Armenia in 2011 and 2012. The court also cleared him of making “public appeals against the state,” a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison in Azerbaijan.
During his trips to Artsakh, Lapshin provided detailed accounts on his Russian language blog. He was detained in the capital city of Belarus, Minsk, after Azerbaijan issued a warrant for his arrest. The Belarusian authorities then extradited him to Azerbaijan in February.
The extradition, which was criticized by Armenia and Russia, was also condemned by international watchdogs such as Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Amnesty had demanded the immediate release of the blogger, saying that he was at risk of torture and an unfair trial. Azerbaijan authorities rejected these claims.
Lapshin pleaded not guilty to the accusations leveled against him and denied “forging criminal links with Armenian authorities” in his final statement at his trial on July 19.
According to TASS news agency, Lapshin’s lawyer said he is satisfied with the verdict and hopes that his client will soon be handed to Russia, Ukraine, or Israel, since he is a citizen of all three countries.