MINSK, Belarus—Russian blogger Aleksandr Lapshin on Tuesday was flown from Minsk to Baku after the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a lower court to extradite him to Azerbaijan to face charges related to his travel blogs about the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The extradition occurred despite objections from Moscow, which wanted Lapshin to be sent to Russia.
Lapshin—who holds Russian and Israeli citizenship—was detained on December 15 by Belarusian authorities by Baku’s request for visiting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in 2011, 2012, and 2016.
The Belarus Prosecutor’s Office decided on January 18 to extradite Lapshin. His appeal against the decision was denied by the Minsk Court on January 26.
The Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on the February 7 decision of the Belarusian Supreme Court, saying that it is a “flagrant” violation of freedom of movement and speech.
“The verdict of the Supreme Court of Belarus, which has upheld the decision to hand over well-known blogger Alexander Lapshin to Azerbaijan for criminal prosecution is not only an expression of outright support for the policy of intimidating foreign citizens pursued by the Azerbaijani authorities, but also a flagrant violation of the fundamental rights to the freedom of movement and freedom of speech,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Handing over Lapshin at Baku’s request reveals Belarus’s priorities of upholding political benefit over principles of justice, the Ministry continued.
Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, demanded Lapshin’s extradition to Baku, saying on February 3 that he should have been handed over “long ago.”
“It seems that a medal after Heydar Aliyev handed over to Lukashenko played an important role, and he promised to pay back and fulfilled his promise. In general, we deem the decision of Belarus court as scandalous, disgraceful, illegal,” said spokesperson for Artsakh’s president, Davit Babayan.
He says he is confident that Belarusian citizens do not support the extradition.
Regarding Israel’s stance on the Lapshin’s extradition, Babayan believes that Israel should suspend cooperation with Azerbaijan. “They can already see how Baku ‘repaid’ the supply of armaments to Israel. After all, it is no secret that the life of Alexander Lapshin will be under a serious threat in the Azerbaijani prison. Azerbaijan’s actions are first of all a challenge to Israel,” added Babayan.
Lapshin’s arrest and extradition process is being carried out with gross violations of international law and international humanitarian law by Interpol, he concluded.
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.”