Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday he expects that an Israeli blogger jailed in the country for nearly two months will be extradited to Azerbaijan. Lukashenko however suggested that Israel could reach a deal with Azerbaijan to secure Alexander Lapshin’s release, if it wishes.
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Lapshin, 40, a dual Israeli-Russian citizen, divides his time between Israel and a few other places. He was arrested on December 15 in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the request of the Azeri authorities, who demanded his extradition. The arrest was made one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
Lapshin was arrested following his visits to Nagorno-Karabakh, over which Baku claims sovereignty but is now under Armenian control, as well as due to critical posts in his Russian-language blog against Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Israel and Russia have been working in recent weeks to prevent Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan. Israeli and Russian officials, working in tandem, contacted the Belarusian and the Azerbaijani governments on the matter, but have so far failed. Azerbaijan is determined in its demand that Lapshin will be extradited and the Belarusian authorities is cooperating with it.
The Belarusian Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days on Lapshin’s appeal. If the court rejects the appeal, Lapshin will be extradited.
“I’ve instructed to hand him over in accordance with the law,” President Lukashenko said in a press briefing on Friday. “The Russians want him, the Israelis want him. According to the decision [by the court], we should transfer him to Azerbaijan. We could release him, but that won’t be right.”
Lukashenko, however, implied that there was still a possibility to reach a deal between Israel, Russia and Azerbaijan, that would secure Lapshin’s release. “If Israel would want, a hair will not fall from the man’s head,” he said. The Belarusian president refused to elaborate or explain, but only noted that “most of the iceberg, which you can’t see, is underwater.”