Blogger’s Arrest Threatens Freedom of Speech says Ombudsman

Alexander Lapshin, blogger, has been arrested in Minsk, Belarus by the orders of Azerbaijani authorities (Photo: Alexander Lapshin Facebook Page)
Alexander Lapshin, blogger, has been arrested in Minsk, Belarus by the orders of Azerbaijani authorities

Alexander Lapshin, blogger, has been arrested in Minsk, Belarus by the orders of Azerbaijani authorities

YEREVAN (Arka)—Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Arman Tatoyan on Wednesday described the arrest of Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin as a threat to freedom of expression.

Lapshin, 40, was arrested by Belarus authorities on December 15 in Minsk, at the request of the Azeri authorities, who demanded his extradition because of his visits to the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic. Lapshin, who has Russian and Israeli citizenship, visited the Artsakh Republic in April 2011 and in October 2012, and later in his blogs called for international recognition of the republic’s independence.

“I believe that his arrest is a serious threat to freedom of speech and human rights. The charges against Lapshin run contrary to the case-law of the European courts,” Tatoyan said.

“I have been actively working with the representatives of international organizations for the release of Lapshin. We have analyzed all related legal issues,” Tatoyan said.

Lapshin’s extradition to Baku is opposed also by Russia, whose Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on January 17 said the country opposes “criminalization of any individual’s or reporter’s visit to any location of any region. We also oppose the extradition of arrested Russian citizens in any country to third countries.”

“We have contacted Mr. Lapshin through the consul. We know that he is also an Israeli citizen and Israeli diplomats have also contacted him. We will take every measures to settle this situation by fully respecting the rights of the Russian citizen,” Lavrov said.

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