The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Azerbaijani authorities guilty of torturing blogger Aleksandr Lapshin and trying to kill him in a Baku prison.
The court said in the unanimous ruling, published on May 20, that Baku must pay compensation of 30,000 euros ($36,500) to Lapshin, who was detained in Belarus in 2016 and extradited to Azerbaijan, where he was charged with illegally visiting Nagorno-Karabakh — a breakaway region in Azerbaijan that was controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists.
Lapshin, a travel blogger and journalist who holds Russian, Ukrainian, and Israeli passports, has maintained his innocence, saying his visit to the breakaway region did not have any political motives and he considers Nagorno-Karabakh to be Azerbaijani territory.
He was sentenced to three years in prison in July 2017.
In September 2017 Lapshin said he was attacked while in solitary confinement and almost killed. Officials said it was a suicide attempt and three days later President Ilham Aliyev granted Lapshin a pardon.
Lapshin spent three days in the intensive care unit of a Baku hospital before he was deported to Israel, where he made a statement to the press rejecting the Azerbaijani claims.
Medical examinations conducted in Israel confirmed the blogger’s version that someone had tried to murder him. Independent experts in Russia and the Netherlands also confirmed the assassination version, which became the basis for filing a complaint against Azerbaijan at the ECHR.
The court found that “the respondent State had failed to satisfy the burden of proof resting on it to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation as regards the incident which had put the applicant’s life in danger.”
It added that “medical and other evidence available clearly showed that the applicant’s life had been in serious and imminent jeopardy and that his survival had been down to prompt medical intervention,” adding that Azerbaijani authorities failed to adequately investigate the incident.