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Azerbaijani president pardons blogger jailed for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh

11 September 2017
Aleksandr Lapshin (Interfax)

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed an order on 11 September pardoning blogger Aleksandr Lapshin, who was imprisoned for for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh.

The decision was posted on the official presidential administration website.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted presidential aide Ali Hasanov as saying that Lapshin tried to commit suicide the previous day; this has yet to be confirmed.

Azerbaijani news outlet APA quoted Hasanov as saying that Lapshin will be sent to Israel in the near future.

Lapshin, a citizen of Israel, Russia, and Ukraine, was arrested in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in December, after being put on an Interpol list on Azerbaijan’s request for ‘entering the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and supporting separatism in public speeches’. He was extradited to Azerbaijan in February.

On 20 July, Baku City Court sentenced him to three years in prison. He apologised to the court for his visit, but still pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution claims Lapshin labelled Nagorno-Karabakh an ‘independent state’ in his publications, and used ‘separatist terminology’ such as Artsakh and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to describe it.

[For more on Lapshin’s detention and extradition, read on OC Media: Blogger arrested in Belarus and extradited to Azerbaijan for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh]

International rights groups, including the Amnesty International, previously called on the authorities to release him.

Under Azerbaijani law, it is illegal to cross into Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia; it is impossible to do so from the Azerbaijani side.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.