LONDON (RFE/RL) — Amnesty International has condemned the extradition from Belarus to Azerbaijan of a Russian-Israeli blogger who has visited Nagorno-Karabakh in the past and demanded his immediate release from Azerbaijani custody.
In a weekend statement, the London-based human rights group said Alexander Lapshin is prosecuted not only for his trips to Karabakh but also for his criticism of Azerbaijani authorities voiced on his Russian-language travel blog.
“In Azerbaijan, he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment as well as an unfair trial,” it said. “The criminal proceedings against Alexander Lapshin should be terminated, and he should be released immediately,” according to Amnesty’s statement.
Lapshin’s February 7 extradition has been criticized by Russia and Armenia as well as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Dunja Mijatovic, the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) representative on press freedom, has likewise expressed “dismay” at his arrest by masked and heavily armed men at the Baku airport.
The Azerbaijani government has rejected the criticism. Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said on February 8 that Lapshin will stand trial on charges stemming, in part, from his 2011 and 2012 trips to Karabakh.
The 40-year-old blogger, who has Israeli, Russian and Ukrainian citizenships, also stands accused of making “public appeals against the state,” a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison in Azerbaijan. Amnesty International emphasized this fact in its official reaction to his arrest and extradition.