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Armenian-Americans Protest, Demand Lapshin’s Release

 

Russian Israeli Blogger Alexander Lapshin’s Impending Extradition Latest Example of Aliyev’s Crackdown on Free Media

NEW YORK/ WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committees of Greater Washington (ANC of GW) and New York (ANC of New York) held simultaneous protests in front of Belarus’ diplomatic missions in Washington, D.C. and New York City on Jan. 29, demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin.

Scenes from the New York protest against the extradition of Alexander Lapshin

Lapshin currently faces extradition from Belarus to Azerbaijan for traveling and reporting from Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh/NKR) and speaking critically of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s dictatorial regime.  The gathered voiced their discontent and outrage over Azerbaijan’s continuous assault against free media and journalists over the past several years, with Lapshin being the latest victim.

“We condemn in the strongest terms any attempt to silence or intimidate journalists and individuals who travel to the free and independent Republic of Artsakh,” said ANCA Eastern Region Chairman Steve Mesrobian. “Azerbaijan and Belarus are two of Europe’s last remaining dictatorships and for us it is absolutely unacceptable to silence journalists for speaking up about human rights offences or for expressing their support for the free and democratic Republic of Artsakh. We also call upon the United States government to take a strong stance on this issue in solidarity with the people of Nagorno Karabagh Republic, our democratic and reliable ally in the region.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Belorussian authorities to unconditionally release Aleksandr Lapshin. “We call on Belarussian authorities to release the travel blogger without condition and allow him to return home,” stated CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova.

DC Armenian Americans protest Alexander Lapshin’s impending extradition to Azerbaijan in front of Belarus Embassy

The Washington protest was organized in coordination with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Sebouh Committee and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Ani chapter.  Similar protests have taken place at Belarus Embassies around the world.

“We have gathered here today in solidarity with Mr. Lapshin and with hundreds of other journalists who have been silenced by President Aliyev’s dictatorial regime,” said AYF Ani Chapter Chairman Aram Tramblian. “Media freedom is one of the cornerstones of any democracy. With Mr. Lapshin’s extradition, the Azerbaijani government hopes to quash future free and unfettered reporting about Artsakh—a dangerous precedent which we simply cannot allow.”

On Dec. 15, 2016, police in Belarus detained Lapshin, a popular travel blogger based in Moscow, for his prior visits to the Republic of Artsakh and for his criticism of the Aliyev regime. In his postings, Lapshin had expressed support for the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh. In 2016, he had also visited Baku and subsequently wrote blogs criticizing the poverty in certain areas of the oil-rich capital Baku, as well as the dictatorial rule of Aliyev.

Scenes from the New York protest against the extradition of Alexander Lapshin

On Jan. 20, at President Aliyev’s request,  the General Prosecutor’s Office of Belarus decided to have Lapshin extradited to Azerbaijan.  An appeal to the ruling was recently denied.

Both Israeli and Russian diplomatic missions have made representations calling for Lapshin’s release and opposing the extradition. An Israeli consular official met with the blogger on January 12. The blogger’s wife, Yekaterina Kopilova, told Ha’aretz that the diplomat told her that Lapshin was “in poor mental health,” “depressed,” and under pressure from Belarussian officials to agree to voluntary extradition. “There is no good news,” the newspaper quoted Kopilova as saying.

DC Armenian Americans protest Alexander Lapshin’s impending extradition to Azerbaijan in front of Belarus Embassy

Azerbaijan is ranked 160th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, and President Aliyev listed as one of the top Predators of Press Freedom, who has eliminated almost all pluralism in his country.

Azerbaijan has declared 180 journalists personae non grata—meaning they cannot enter the country—because of prior visits to the Republic of Artsakh.

Below is a video of the New York protest.

 

Below are two videos of the Washington protest.

3 Comments on Armenian-Americans Protest, Demand Lapshin’s Release

  1. avatar Sassoon Kosian // January 30, 2017 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    I wonder if these youths will one day protest against Sergik’s regime demanding the release of political prisoners in Armenia.

  2. Shame on Belarus.., with this action Lukashin himself recognizes that there is no any difference between him and aliev.. Both are big dictators..

  3. That was quite noble of those Armenian-American protesters to condemn the severe human rights abuses being committed by Azerbaijan/Belarus against Alexander Lapshin.

    And, as usual, the U.S. government (who pretends to be so deeply committed to human rights) will never condemn its darling, Aliyev, for his blatant and enormous human rights abuses, committed against so many people.

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