Peter Tase on Lapshin’s extradition: “It is illegal to visit Azerbaijan’s occupied territories and there are repercussions for those actions”

Baku, February 10, AZERTAC

“It is illegal to visit Azerbaijan’s occupied territories and there are repercussions for those actions,” said Peter Tase, an American international relations expert, as he was interviewed by AZERTAC on detaining and extradition of Alexander Lapshin.

- Blogger Alexander Lapshin who had consistently violated laws of Azerbaijan was recently extradited to Azerbaijan after he had been detained by law enforcement in Belarus. What do you make of his actions?

As you know Lapshin has continuously visited the occupied territories of Azerbaijan for a number of years. While crossing the border into an occupied territory of Azerbaijan is a violation of law in any case, his case differs from those of others who took similar actions, in that he did not just visit the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, but openly called for separatism, violation of international borders and even mocked Azerbaijan for blacklisting him but failing to detain him, in his social media account. Moreover, Lapshin seemingly attempted to fundraise money (likely from his Armenian audience) to fund his trips and further aggravate Azerbaijani authorities and the people.

As far as I know, he has been declared internationally wanted due to the fact that his actions include such offenses as public incitement against the state and illegal crossing of the state border. To my knowledge, not only did he cross into occupied territories of Azerbaijan through Armenia without any legal admission documents from Azerbaijan, but he also arrived in Baku with another (possibly fake) Ukrainian passport which spelled his name differently and which in his view, should be an encouragement to other violators: to go to occupied Karabakh, be black-listed and then enter Baku under a different name. Understandably, all these actions warrant prosecution by corresponding authorities in any state.

- Some parties have expressed discontent about Lapshin’s extradition. How legitimate are those concerns?

Well, everyone has a right to express a concern, but did the same parties express any concern when Lapshin walked occupied Karabakh at his will and violated laws of the country? Did they express a concern when he openly called for separatism and violation of Azerbaijan’s borders, especially given the fact that 750 thousand ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced out of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh by the very illegal regime which has used him as a tool in their propaganda?

In my opinion, Belarus has acted in full accordance with international and bilateral treaties to extradite Lapshin for his criminal activities because he was sought by Interpol. My understanding is that both Russia and Israel perfectly understand the seriousness of the situation with Lapshin and see that his actions did warrant an arrest and extradition.

- What can you say about Azerbaijan’s swift actions on Lapshin’s case?

Azerbaijan’s actions and persistence is bringing Lapshin to justice are commendable. Not only did it catch the criminal who openly violated its laws and mocked it for inability to detain him, but it also sends a message to all blacklisted individuals and potential visitors of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh that it is indeed illegal to visit Azerbaijan’s occupied territories and that there are repercussions for those actions. Azerbaijani authorities deserve a pat in back for following up on illegal activities and all its diplomatic efforts with countries involved to see that Lapshin faces a court in Azerbaijan’s justice system.

It is actually disturbing that some blogger from elsewhere can visit occupied territories of Azerbaijan and see no justice, but Azerbaijan’s own citizens (almost a million of them) are deprived from that ability. In fact, two of the Azerbaijani civilians have been captured and detained by the illegal Armenian regime in Khankendi for visiting their own territory. This is where we see injustice and where justice must be restored.

Yusif Babanli

Special correspondent

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