Interpol Rejects Azerbaijan's Request for Extradition of Czech MP

Interpol has rejected the request for the issuance of an international arrest warrant against Jaromír Štětina, Czech Member of the European Parliament, that Azerbaijani authorities presented earlier this year, Radio Praha reports.

Azerbaijani authorities submitted the request back in February, after Štětina paid a visit to the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh on the occasion of the 20th of February referendum that changed the official name of the region to ‘the Republic of Artsakh.’

According to Prague Monitor Daily, Štětina as well as other two MEPs, Frank Engel from Luxembourg and Eleni Theocharous from Cyprus, visited Nagorno-Karabakh to monitor the referendum. 

“They do not have diplomatic immunity, but the special immunity of a deputy that is valid only in the EU. Since this was an EU delegation, I rule out [the possibility of their] arrest in the EU, but not east of the EU, except for in Georgia, Ukraine and Armenia”, Pavel Svoboda, an expert on European law was quoted as saying back in February by local media. 

According to Radio Praha, Štětina during his stay in Nagorno-Karabakh spoke of ‘provocative actions conducted by Azerbaijan’, which was later referred to by the Azerbaijani press as ‘comments helping to fuel tensions in the  region.’

It is not the first time that Azerbaijan has tried to prosecute foreigners for entering Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Alexander Lapshin, a travel blogger who holds Russian, Ukrainian and Israeli passports, was arrested in Belarus in December last year for his repeated trips to Nagorno-Karabakh and was later extradited to Baku.

Now the blogger is charged with illegal border-crossing and violating Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and, if convicted, may face up to eight years in  prison.

On  the first day of the trial, on June 30, Lapshin pled not guilty.

“I am not guilty. I only made tourist trips”, Lapshin was quoted by Interfax as saying. 

“In my blog, I shared only tourist impressions, and these were not political publications. I was in Karabakh twice and had no contacts with local officials”, he added. 

The trial is now underway and the next hearing will be on July 14, APA states.