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Azerbaijan jails blogger over Nagorno-Karabakh visit

July 20, 2017, 11:59 UTC+3 BAKU

In his last plea on Wednesday, the blogger rejected the accusations against him

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BAKU, July 20. /TASS/. A court on grave crimes in Baku has sentenced a Russian-Israeli travel blogger Alexander Lapshin to three years behind bars over his visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed border region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Lapshin was found guilty under Article 318.2 envisaging punishment for "illegally crossing Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized state borders as part of an organized group," according to the verdict. The blogger will serve sentence in a general regime penal colony. He will be granted credit for the days in custody.

The court did not find Lapshin guilty of calls for violating Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, noting that the charges pressed against him "were not proved during the investigation." The prosecutors demanded sentencing Lapshin to six years and a half in prison.

In his last plea on Wednesday, the blogger rejected the accusations against him. According to the blogger, he may be guilty in moral but not in judicial terms. Lapshin stressed that he had traveled to Nagorny Karabakh relying on information about the conflict from Armenian sources. But he regrets that information published in his blog offended the feelings of Azerbaijan’s nationals.

Lapshin was detained in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in December 2016 at Baku’s request. He was flown to Baku on February 7 and handed over to the Azerbaijani State Security Service. Azerbaijan’s prosecutors opened criminal cases against him envisaging jail terms of between five and eight years.

Nagorno-Karabakh sought independence from Azerbaijan at the end of the 1980s, which resulted in a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that claimed the lives of 25,000-30,000 people between 1988 and 1994. Since then, the territory has been controlled by Armenia.

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