Israeli Blogger Jailed in Azerbaijan Requests Extradition

The Russian-Israeli blogger was sentenced to three years imprisonment in Azerbaijan after making an authorized trip to disputed border region, and for claiming it belonged to Armenia

Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin upon his landing in Baku after being extradited from Belarus to Azerbaijan, February 7, 2017.

Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin, who was sentenced to three years in prison in Azerbaijan last week for illegally entering the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, has filed a request for extradition to Israel, his lawyer told Haaretz on Friday.

“Alexander Lapshin appealed to the Israeli authorities to extradite him from Azerbaijan to Israel, through the Israeli consul,” said attorney Edward Chernin.

Lapshin, who holds Israeli and Russian citizenship, declined the offer to be extradited to Russia to serve his sentence there. Chernin said he didn't accept the offer “because his family is in Israel and he wants him to have the opportunity to maintain contact with them.”

“We are waiting for the sentence to be activated, at which point the extradition process is supposed to begin,” he added.

A court in Baku sentenced Lapshin to three years in prison for illegally entering Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory disputed by Azerbaijan and Armenia. Azerbaijani law forbids visits to the area without prior approval from the authorities.

Lapshin was also charged with making public statements against the regime after documenting his journey on his Russian-language travel blog, where he reportedly claimed that the region belonged to Armenia and supported their claim of ownership.

During the trial, the prosecution presented a number of witnesses who said that they had fled from Nagorno-Karabakh and demanded that Lapshin “be punished” for “defending the occupiers.”

The court acquitted Lapshin of insulting the Azerbaijani people after the blogger made a statement that he regretted having written about the conflict without “understanding the suffering of the Azerbaijani people.”

The prosecution had requested a sentence of six and a half years, but the judge decided to reduce it to three years because Lapshin had no previous offenses and is the father of a small child. The time he served since his arrest in Belarus on December 15, 2016, will count toward his sentence.