Quite imperceptibly for the Israeli public, swallowed up by the conflict around the Gaza Strip, the news flashed about the precedent decision of the ECHR filled by the Israeli citizen, Alexander Lapshin. The European Court has found the Republic of Azerbaijan responsible for the torture and attempted murder of an Israeli journalist Lapshin who was arrested in Belarus on 2016 and extradited to Baku because of his trip to Nagorno-Karabakh back in 2011. The court also ordered Azerbaijan to pay Lapshin 30 thousand euros in compensation. Ironically, it was in the Israeli Sheba Tel-Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv that the necessary forensic medical examinations were carried out, on the basis of which a lawsuit was filed against Azerbaijan at the ECHR. This was the first incident in the history of exclusively friendly relations between Israel and Azerbaijan, when, firstly, a complaint was filed against Baku by an Israeli citizen and, secondly, that the complaint was based on documents of Israeli origin.
In 2016, when this incident took place, there was a lot of excitement around. The Israeli authorities were clearly shocked by what had happened and could not understand why the authorities of friendly Azerbaijan decided to make a citizen of the Jewish state a victim of the political games around Artsakh (aka Nagorno-Karabakh). After all, hundreds of thousands of other foreigners visited Artsakh region and no one cared about this. For Israel, the situation was extremely painful, because Azerbaijan created a precedent showing that Israeli citizens can be caught in a third country for clearly political reasons and extradited upon request to a country that could be hostile to Israel.
If we abstract from Lapshin’s personality and the issue of human rights in Azerbaijan and the activities of a journalist, then an equally logical question arises – is everything in Azerbaijan controlled by President Aliyev? Who would benefit from murdering an Israeli in the most guarded prison in Azerbaijan? Without a doubt, Aliyev is the last person who would benefit from this scandalous incident. In this case, can we assume the existence of powers in Azerbaijan strong enough to strike a blow on the image of Aliyev and have the ability to kill the most guarded prisoner in this country? Who could organize this attack – radical Islamists hostile to Israel inside the country’s security structures or maybe other influential clans in Azerbaijan? This question must first of all be answered by Azerbaijan itself, and as for Israel, understanding what happened will certainly make it possible to predict the situation in this country in the context of relations with Israel. Recall that in 1979 the Israelis had to literally flee Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
On the other hand, Israel could not risk relations with Azerbaijan, because this is both direct access to the Iranian border in case of war and is an important purchaser of Israeli weapons. The uncertain and attitude of the authorities to what happened to Lapshin fully reflected the difficult situation in which Israel found itself through the fault of Azerbaijan, which did not calculate the consequences of its actions. As a result, the incident was resolved, Lapshin was released 9 months later (although he ended up in a hospital with serious injuries inflicted in Azerbaijan), but the silence of official Israel still had negative consequences.
Lapshin’s precedent opened the “Pandora’s box” and it remains only to wait who will be next and at what price Israel will have to pay for its own inaction in relation to its fellow citizens.
P.S. The article was written in close cooperation with Alexander Lapshin. He can be fully considered as a co-author.