FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2017
Contact: Sevag Belian (613) 235-2622
Ottawa – The Armenian National Committee of Canada strongly condemns the Belarusian government’s disproportionate decision to extradite Russian-Israeli blogger, Alexander Lapshin, to Azerbaijan for prosecution on baseless accusations.
Lapshin, who holds a dual citizenship from Russia and Israel, is an active journalist and blogger who has visited the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh Republic/NKR) and the Republic of Azerbaijan on multiple occasions with the last time being in June of 2016. Through his independent reporting, Lapshin has supported the native Armenian populations’ call for self-determination and independence in Artsakh and has vehemently criticized the Azerbaijani governments dictatorial tendencies in the region. He has since been accused of trumped up charges of insulting president Aliyev of Azerbaijan and for visiting the disputed territory of Artsakh.
“The international community cannot simply remain silent as Azerbaijan tries to blatantly export its authoritarian policies of containing the freedom of speech and mobility of journalists and human rights activists around the world” said Shahen Mirakian, president of the Armenian National Committee of Canada.
Both Belarus and Azerbaijan are ranked as one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, with an infamous record of jailing journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents. Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and many other internationally renowned NGO’s have rated both countries as one of the worst places to practice fundamental human rights and independent journalism.
While Israeli and Russian diplomatic missions have made representations calling for Lapshin’s release and opposing the extradition, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Belarusian authorities to unconditionally release Lapshin.
“Alexander Lasphin should not be jailed for expressing his opinions or traveling to a disputed region,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Co-ordinator Nina Ognianova stated.
“We call upon the International community and the Canadian government to join us in condemning this abominable act of human rights violation and exert the necessary pressure on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from their decision of extraditing a journalist that was merely voicing his opinion on what is true” concluded Mirakian.
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Canadian-Armenian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada and the world.