LONDON — Amnesty International has condemned the extradition from Belarus to Azerbaijan of Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin who has visited Nagorno-Karabakh in the past and demanded his immediate release from Azerbaijani custody.

In a weekend statement, the London-based human rights group said “Upon transfer to Baku on 7 February, Alexander Lapshin was taken immediately into custody. In Azerbaijan, he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment as well as an unfair trial. The criminal proceedings against Alexander Lapshin should be terminated, and he should be released immediately.”

“Amnesty International takes the view that the extradition and charges against Aleksandr Lapshin are a means of targeting him principally in connection with his blogs, in particular his criticism of the Azerbaijani border control system and the country’s social inequality,” said the statement.

“The charge of “public appeals against the state” has no legal basis, as the criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities in his blog falls entirely within the scope of his right to freedom of expression. With regard to the criminal charge of illegal border crossing, the organization maintains that irregular entry should not be treated as a criminal offence. As such, Amnesty International considers that his detention is arbitrary and calls for the criminal proceedings against Aleksandr Lapshin to be terminated. He should be released immediately,” the statement reads.

“Concerns were raised regarding the conditions of Aleksander Lapshin’s detention in Belarus where he was held at the pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) #1 in Minsk. He is also at risk of torture and other ill-treatment while in custody in Azerbaijan.”

“The Azerbaijani authorities have persistently failed to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and the Azerbaijani courts have on numerous occasions admitted as evidence “confessions” obtained under torture. In extraditing Aleksander Lapshin to Azerbaijan, where he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, amongst other human rights violations, the Belarusian authorities have failed to adhere to their obligations under international human rights law. Belarus ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1998, according to which “no State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

Lapshin’s February 7 extradition has been criticized by Russia and Armenia as well as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on press freedom, has likewise expressed “dismay” at his demonstrative arrest by masked and heavily armed men at the Baku airport.

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