Just one day after leaving Azerbaijan, a Russian-Israeli blogger who was jailed in Baku for travelling to Nagorno-Karabakh called on Friday for continued Armenian control over the territory.
Aleksandr Lapshin also strongly denied the Azerbaijani authorities’ claims that he tried to commit suicide the day before receiving a pardon from President Ilham Aliyev on Monday. He said that in fact he was brutally assaulted in his prison cell.
Lapshin, who has Israeli, Russian and Ukrainian citizenships, flew from Baku to Tel Aviv on Thursday nine months after being detained in Belarus on an Azerbaijani arrest warrant. He was extradited to Azerbaijani in February.
An Azerbaijani court sentenced the 41-year-old to three years in prison in July. It said he illegally crossed Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders when he visited Karabakh via Armenia in 2011 and 2012.Lapshin gave detailed accounts of those trips on his Russian-language travel blog.
Announcing Aliyev’s decision to pardon the blogger, the authorities in Baku said that he is receiving medical assistance after he tried to kill himself in Azerbaijani custody.
“I categorically deny the official Azerbaijani lie about my suicide attempt in a Baku prison,” Lapshin wrote on his blog. He claimed that in reality he was beaten unconscious by two unknown men who burst into his prison cell on the night from Sunday to Monday.
Lapshin said he regained consciousness in a Baku hospital. He called the alleged attack a murder attempt.
In a separate Facebook post, the blogger reflected on the Karabakh conflict and made an emotional appeal to Armenians.
“I am ashamed of admitting that before I found myself in the Azerbaijani prison I sincerely believed that the Karabakh conflict is a very disputed one and should be resolved on the basis of respect for Azerbaijan’s national borders,” he wrote. “What an idiot I was! Already in 1988 Azerbaijan began [a campaign of] terror against Armenians in [the Azerbaijani city of] Sumgait, Baku and Karabakh.”
“Armenians, hold firm!” he said. “These people want to see you dead full stop. And if you lose Karabakh as a result of negotiations or a weakening of Armenia’s position, be aware that they will come to slaughter you. Just like the Turks did 100 years ago.”
Years before his arrest, Lapshin was placed on an official Azerbaijani blacklist of several hundred non-Armenian foreigners who visited Karabakh without Baku’s permission. Nevertheless, he was able to travel to Azerbaijan in June 2016 and post a series of detailed blog entries on his mixed impressions about the oil-rich country.In particular, Lapshin suggested that the Azerbaijani authorities have squandered their massive oil revenues.