Preliminary Hearing For Russian-Israeli Blogger Starts In Baku

BAKU -- An Azerbaijani court has started preliminary hearings in the high-profile trial of Russian-Israeli citizen Aleksandr Lapshin, a blogger charged with calling for the country's territorial integrity to be violated.

The Baku Court for Serious Crimes is holding a preliminary hearing on the case on June 22.

Azerbaijani prosecutors have accused Lapshin of illegally visiting Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2011 and 2012 without Baku's permission, and then calling for the recognition of the region's independence in two online statements.

The hearing is being held in the Azerbaijani language. Lapshin was provided with a translator.

At the first day of the preliminary hearing, Lapshin said that he holds Russian, Ukrainian, and Israeli passports, naming Israel as his last country of residence.

He also said he has a young child to support.

The preliminary hearing then was adjourned until June 30.

Lapshin, 40, writes a Russian-language travel blog. He was detained in Belarus in mid-December at Baku's request.

Despite Russia's objections, Belarusian authorities extradited Lapshin to Baku in February.

If he is convicted by the Azerbaijani court he could face up to eight years in prison.

With reporting by APA