Azerbaijan Pardons Alexander Lapshin

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a pardon Monday for Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin, who was sentenced to three years in prison for having entered the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The pardon went into effect immediately.

Lapshin, 40, holds dual Israel and Russian citizenship and divides his time between Israel and several other countries.

He was arrested on December 15 in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, at the request of the Azerbaijani authorities, who demanded his extradition.

The arrest occurred one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Baku, Azerbaijan.

In February, Belarus extradited him to Azerbaijan, and he has remained under arrest there.

Lapshin was arrested because of trips he had made in the past to the Armenian-controlled province of Nagorno-Karabakh, over which the Baku government claims sovereignty, and for having posted criticism on his blog, in Russian, against Azerbaijan and its president.

“I was writing a tourism piece,” Lapshin said in his defense at his trial in Baku last July. “My blog post was about my experience as a tourist, not political commentary. I was in Karabakh twice and had no contacts with the authorities.”

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