Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 13
Assistant to the Azerbaijani President for Work with Law Enforcement Bodies and Military Issues Fuad Alasgarov responded to questions on the pardoning of blogger Alexander Lapshin and release of head of Turan News Agency Mehman Aliyev from prison.
- Dear Mr Alasgarov, the pardoning of Alexander Lapshin and Mehman Aliyev’s release from prison are among the most discussed issues in recent days. How would you comment on these decisions?
- President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev constantly reaffirms his commitment to the ideas and principles of humanity in his work. I would like to note that on February 10, 2017, the president signed an order to humanize penal policy and expand the application of alternative penal measures and non-custodial procedural measures of restraint. The aim of this order is to reduce the number of custodial sentences and to correct individuals without their isolation from society.
On the other hand, numerous pardon and amnesty acts are integral elements of this humane policy. As you know, five amnesty acts have been adopted since 2003, applying to 54,000 people. At the same time, the Azerbaijani president has signed 31 pardon orders that applied to more than 3,800 individuals. Among those who have been released from jails are journalists and bloggers who were imprisoned for various offenses. The issues relating to pardoning are the focus of the head of state`s attention. Under the president’s instructions, the Pardon Commission is considering appeals of convicts on a regular basis. This is a dynamic process.
The pardoning of Alexander Lapshin should be regarded as another step taken for humane purposes. Two legal procedures regarding Lapshin were considered in parallel. One was his pardoning, and the other his extradition to his country of origin – Israel. Taking into account Lapshin’s admitting – both during his trial and in his appeals addressed to the Azerbaijani president – that he regrets committing the crime, his statement that he recognizes Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity, as well as his marital status, especially the fact that he has a toddler, Ilham Aliyev deemed Lapshin’s pardoning possible and signed a corresponding order.
- Is the issue of Lapshin’s extradition to Israel still on the agenda?
- I would like to clarify something. After the order, there have been reports in some media outlets saying that Alexander Lapshin will be extradited or given to another country. But certain legal definitions have been misinterpreted.
As Alexander Lapshin was pardoned his extradition to another country becomes irrelevant at this point. Under international conventions, the aim of extradition of a person charged with committing a crime is to send him to another country to serve his sentence in a country of his citizenship. After the Azerbaijani president’s pardon order Alexander Lapshin was freed from the unserved term of his sentence and he is free to choose where to go.
According to information we have, Lapshin wishes to go to the country of his citizenship – Israel. He is healthy, he does not have any health problems and may travel to Israel whenever he wishes.
- What can you say about Mehman Aliyev’s release from prison?
- Mehman Aliyev personally appealed to the head of state requesting the replacement of his arrest status. Guided by the humane principles, Ilham Aliyev immediately reacted to his appeal and recommended considering the possibility of changing Mehman Aliyev’s arrest status. I would like to stress that the head of state’s appeal to prosecution and judicial authorities was in the form of recommendation.
Indeed, recent decisions on Mehman Aliyev’s release and release of the persons, who were imprisoned for incidents in Azerbaijan’s Naradaran settlement, on parole are a clear manifestation of the realization of the ideas and principles set forth in the Azerbaijani president`s order dated February 10, 2017. By the way, statistical analysis conducted after the signing of the order shows that the number of persons imprisoned during investigation has decreased by 30 percent.
I have to note that the execution of the instructions set forth in the order continues.
The president of Azerbaijan has already submitted proposals on amendments to the Criminal Code to the Azerbaijani Parliament. Work on amendments to Criminal Procedure Code and Code of Execution of Punishments is nearing its completion. Amendments to all the three codes will come into force at the same time.