BAKU—Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin, who was serving a three-year sentence in an Azerbaijani prison for his writing about Artsakh, was pardoned by Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev on Monday.
“Guided by paragraph 22 of Article 109 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, I hereby decree that Lapshin Alexander Valeryevich, a citizen of the State of Israel, born in 1976, who was sentenced to imprisonment by the Baku Court of Serious Crimes on July 20 2017, shall be pardoned,” read a short decree publicized by Aliyev’s press service, which added that the pardon was effective immediately.
Aliyev’s decision to pardon Lapshin coincided with the start of Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov’s visit to Israel.
Ali Hasanov, a senior aide to Aliyev, said Lapshin will most likely be sent to Israel within the next few days. Hasanov also announced that Lapshin was currently receiving medical assistance after he attempted suicide while in custody.
According to Azerbaijan’s Justice Minister, Lapshin attempted to take his own life on Sunday in protest to a delay in his extradition to Israel. “Thanks to the vigilance of prison guards, the suicide attempt was thwarted,” the ministry’s Penitentiary Service said in a statement cited by Azerbaijani media, reported Azatutyun.am.
An Azerbaijani court ruled on July 20 that Lapshin illegally crossed Azerbaijan’s international borders in Artsakh through Armenia in 2011 and 2012. While he was no charged with making “public appeals against the state,” a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison in Azerbaijan, he was sentenced to three years in prison for his writings on Artsakh in his Russian language blog.
Lapshin pled not guilty to charges and said that he understood how his writings may have disturbed people in Azerbaijan.
In December, Lapshin was arrested in Minsk, the Belarus capital, and was subsequently extradited in February to Baku to face trial, despite an international outcry that included protests from Armenia and Russia, as well as international watch dog organizations such as Amnesty International and Committee to Protect Journalists.