MINSK, Belarus—Belarus authorities decided on January 18 to extradite Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin to Azerbaijan, Chairman of the Armenian Chamber of Advocates Ara Zohrabyan informs in a Facebook post.
Lapshin was detained on December 15 in Minsk, Belarus by the orders of Azerbaijani authorities for his visits to the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic in 2011 and 2012.
According to the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office, a criminal case has opened against Lapshin for “illegally” crossing the Azerbaijani border and for public appeals directed against the state.
The Armenian Chamber of Advocates has set up a task force to provide assistance to Lapshin.
The ruling can be appealed within ten days, Zohrabyan said.
Russia on January 17 expressed their opposition of Lapshin’s extradition. “We oppose the 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,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “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,” he said.
Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s Office also expressed concern about the arrest and extradition, stating that it threatens freedom of speech. “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,” Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Arman Tatoyan said earlier this week.
“If extradited, tried, and convicted, he faces up to eight years in prison,” reported RFE/RL’s Belarus’ Service.