Lapshin Clears Up Azerbaijani Misinformation, Appeals to Armenian People to ‘Hold Firm’

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‘Armenians, Hold Firm! These People Want to See You Dead, Full Stop’

Alexander Lapshin has taken to his blog and social media outlets to dismiss the Azerbaijani narrative on his reported suicide attempt and eventual pardon and release from prison.

Lapshin being detained in Baku (Photo: Interfax)

The Russian-Isreali blogger, who was arrested last December and sentenced to three years in prison on a charge related to his 2011 and 2012 visits to Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), completely denied the Azerbaijani government’s statements that he had attempted suicide while in custody. Ali Hasanov, an aide to Azerbaijani Presdietn Ilham Aliyev, had indicated last week that prison guards had prevented the imprisoned blogger from taking his own life.

Lapshin wrote on his blog this week that, instead, he was severely beaten. According to the blog post, which was published on Sept. 15, after the incident, he woke up in a hospital hooked up to a catheter and an oxygen mask.

When Lapshin was released after seven months in an Azerbaijani prison, his lawyer announced that Lapshin had written a letter of gratitude to the Azerbaijani President. “Today I learned that you [President Aliyev] have signed an order on my pardon. I am very thankful to you for this,” said the letter, which was released by Lapshin’s lawyer on Sept. 13.

On July 20, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Lapshin to three years in prison on a charge related to his 2011 and 2012 visits to Artsakh. The court ruled that Lapshin illegally crossed Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders when he traveled to Artsakh through Armenia in 2011 and 2012. The court cleared him of charges of making “public appeals against the state,” a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison in Azerbaijan.

During his trips to Artsakh, Lapshin provided detailed accounts on his Russian-language blog. He was detained in the capital city of Belarus, Minsk, after Azerbaijan issued a warrant for his arrest. The Belorusian authorities then extradited him to Azerbaijan in February.

The extradition, which was criticized by Armenia and Russia, was also condemned by international watchdogs, including Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Amnesty had demanded the immediate release of the blogger, saying he was at risk of torture and an unfair trial. Azerbaijani authorities rejected those claims.

In his letter to President Aliyev, it seemed as if Lapshin had changed his views on the Artsakh conflict: “Now I am fully convinced that Nagorno-Karabagh is Azerbaijani territory. I hope that the Nagorno-Karabagh problem will be resolved within Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity”; the letter also wished President Aliyev “strong health” and “long life.”

In his recent blog post, however, Lapshin thanked a list of people and institutions, but not Aliyev or Azerbaijani government officials. Lapshin expressed gratitude to the staff of the Russian and Israeli consulates in Baku who visited him regularly, as well as to the Red Cross, which he praised not only for aiding him but also for all of its work in “troubled countries” such as Azerbaijan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Rwanda.

In a separate post on his Facebook page, the blogger reflected on the Artsakh conflict and made an emotional appeal to the Armenian people.

“I am ashamed of admitting that before I found myself in the Azerbaijani prison I sincerely believed that the Karabagh conflict is a very disputed one and should be resolved on the basis of respect for Azerbaijan’s national borders…. What an idiot I was! Already in 1988 Azerbaijan began terror against Armenians in Sumgait, Baku, and Karabagh,” Lapshin wrote.

“Armenians, hold firm!” he added. “These people want to see you dead, full stop. And if you lose Karabagh 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.”

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Lapshin Clears Up Azerbaijani Misinformation, Appeals to Armenian People to ‘Hold Firm’