Yesterday Alexander Lapshin was extradited to Baku to face his fate.
A couple of months ago, Alexander Lapshin, a Russian Israeli blogger spoke out against Azerbaijan’s oppressive policies and for the independence of Artsakh aka Nagorno-Karabagh. Azerbaijan has already faced strong condemnation for its oppression of reporters and the ill treatment of their journalists. On the other issue, Artsakh is historical Armenian land that was given unjustly to Azerbaijan in the ‘20’s. It is now 100% Armenian populated and is fighting for independence. Lapshin saw this and spoke out.
In the middle of December an INTERPOL notice was issued for his arrest and extradition. He was arrested in Belarus. He was imprisoned for nearly 2 months waiting for his release. Finally the Belarus president, announced that he would extradite him. He added that he didn’t understand why there was a delay. It is also purported that Alexander was given an ultimatum to apologize and recant his words, which he did not. Lapshin filed to appeal the decision but to no avail. Yesterday he was extradited to Baku.
Globally, Armenians protested numerous times for his release, crying out for world attention. No change. Last Friday in Tel Aviv, Israelis protested in front of the Belarus embassy. Again to no avail. The pleas fell on deaf ears. In a bold statement, Nagorno-Karabagh President Spokesperson Davit Babayan said that Lapshin’s extradition is a “challenge” to Israel. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not done anything to change the situation.
In closing, I reflect on an event of recent days in the Caucaus region. A few days ago, an Azeri soldier was captured during an attempted infiltration operation into Artsakh (Karabagh). Upon learning of his capture, the Azeri army immediately disowned him as an inactive soldier. While his mother vouches that he is indeed an active soldier. If this is how they treat their own soldiers, then who’s to say how they will treat Lapshin.
Freedom should not be muzzled and free-speech will not be muzzled.
What will the Israeli government do? Is the risk of hurting the Azeri-Israeli relationship worth saving Lapshin?