TEL AVIV—A day after arriving in the Israeli capital after being pardoned, Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin has called on Armenian to defend Artsakh at all costs and has denied official Baku’s claims that he attempted suicide in an Azerbaijani prison a night before that country’s president Ilham Aliyev pardoned him.
“Armenians, you stay strong. These people [Azerbaijani government] want to see you all dead. Period. And if you lose Karabakh as a result of negotiations, or weakening of Armenia’s position – know that they will come to massacre you. Like the Turks did a 100 years ago. Brutality has already surpassed all permissible limits,” said Lapshin in a Facebook post on Friday.
“I’m ashamed to admit, but before I went to prison, I sincerely believed that the Karabakh conflict was very controversial and must be resolved with respect for the national borders of Azerbaijan. What an idiot I was! Azerbaijan began the reign of terror against Armenians in Sumgait, Baku, and Karabakh in 1988. In accordance with the Nazi scheme “juden frei,” only with respect to Armenians, not Jews,” said Lapshin on his Facebook page.
“Meanwhile, in the indictment against me, signed by deputy prosecutor general of Azerbaijan Rustam Usubov, the following is literally written “…accused Lapshin called the occupied Karabakh region ‘Artsakh,’ which proves, along with his friend on Facebook, Sergey Shahverdyan, his separatist actions,” explained Lapshin who added: “It is indicative that Azerbaijan, which insists on tolerance from morning to night, considers the Armenian name of Karabakh – Artsakh to be illegal.”
On the day of Lapshin’s release from the Baku prison, the Azerbaijani press published a letter that Lapshin allegedly wrote on the day of his pardon–and a day after official Baku claimed he attempted suicide–praising Aliyev, Azerbaijan and claiming that he was ill-informed about the Karabakh issue. He added that he wished for the liberation of “Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani territories.” His posts on Facebook following his return to Israel suggest that he might have been coerced into signing the letter.
In his first blog post since being pardoned and leaving Baku for the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv, Lapshin, who was serving a three-year prison sentence for visiting Artsakh and writing about the country in his travel blogs.
Writing from Hof Hacarmel Beaches in Haifa in his Live Journal blog, Lapshin said: “I categorically deny the official Azerbaijan deception that I allegedly attempted suicide in Baku’s prison on September 10, 2017. According to Azerbaijani media, president Aliyev demonstrated humanity and pitied me for the suicide and pardoned me after the non-existent suicide attempt.”
He recounts in detail how the night before Aliyev’s pardon, unknown assailants entered his jail cell and beat him unconscious.
“Overnight on September 11 of 2017, when I was getting ready to go to bed in cell N10 of the Baku prison, I suddenly heard the sound of a key in the door, and the door opened. I was lying with my back to the door and wasn’t able to stand up when some people took me from the neck and hands and hit me several times. I don’t remember anything else. What I remember next was that I was in the intensive care clinic in Baku where I was hooked to some machines and an oxygen mask. My two teeth were also broken, while my entire back was covered with bruises,” said Lapshin in his blog.
“I think the attackers were either intimidated or the goal was to discredit the Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan. My death in a Baku prison would be beneficial for some people who are close to president Aliyev, but who believe that it’s time for Aliyev to resign. I have to emphasize that this is my version despite the fact that it is based on the opinions of a number of Azerbaijani reporters and democratic opposition activists living abroad who are forced to live away from their motherland,” added Lapshin.
The blogger added that after a thorough medical examination upon his return to Tel Aviv, doctors said that the injuries suffered by Lapshin were consistent with physical abuse and not a suicide attempt.
“The doctors explained that a minor bruise near my neck and my right shoulder, and were not consistent with a suicide attempt since in the event of a hanging, the bruises would appear near the ear,” said Lapshin adding that he would never attempt suicide on his mother’s birthday, which is on September 10 and at a time when his extradition negotiations had entered their final stage.
The blogger also said that three days after the incident in his cell, he is still groggy from the medication he was given at the intensive care unit. He also said that he has difficulty eating was given an IV for sustenance.