Azerbaijan sentences Russian blogger to three years in jail for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh

Intellinews - Russia This Week



Azerbaijan sentences Russian blogger to three years in jail for
visiting Nagorno-Karabakh



A Baku court sentenced Russian travel blogger Alexander Lapshin to
three years behind bars for having travelled to the breakaway region
of Nagorno-Karabakh, APA news agency reported on July 20. Lapshin was
detained earlier this year in Minsk, Belarus and deported to
Azerbaijan, where he was tried for illegally crossing the border of
Azerbaijan and making public appeals against the state, allegedly for
advocating for the independence of the contested region. The
prosecutor had demanded a sentence of six-and-a-half years for the
blogger.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been an apple of discord between Azerbaijan and
Armenia ever since the region voted in a referendum to join the latter
in the late 1980s. The two countries fought a bitter war over the
region after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which ended in a
ceasefire, but no resolution to the conflict.

Azerbaijan has been blacklisting foreigners that travel to the region,
but Lapshin's arrest in a third country was the first time the
government sought retribution against a foreign national. It is
believed that Baku was looking to make an example out of Lapshin's
case, in order to detract others from travelling to the region or
advocating for its independence.

Lapshin pleaded "not guilty" and said that his trips to the region in
2011-2012 were not conducted in conjunction with Armenian authorities
or against Azerbaijan. The verdict came just as Azerbaijani President
Ilham Aliyev celebrated freedom of speech and the media by allocating
funds for the construction of apartment buildings for journalists and
giving a speech in which he called journalists "his assistants",
according to APA news agency.

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