Senator Portantino Meets with Journalist Alexander Lapshin

Friday, October 14 2022

For Immediate Release: October 14, 2022

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino Meets with Journalist Alexander Lapshin

Glendale, CA – Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) recently met with well-known journalist and travel blogger Alexander Lapshin, who was extradited by Azerbaijan, sent to prison and tortured by the Azeri government for visiting Artsakh.   Glendale Mayor Ardy Kassakhian joined the Senator for the meeting.

“I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Mr. Lapshin to more deeply comprehend his story,” stated Senator Portantino.  “We discussed the importance of journalistic freedom and his horrific experience in an Azerbaijani prison.  For simply visiting Artsakh and reporting the details of what he witnessed there, Mr. Lapshin was subject to arrest and torture by the Azeri government.  As someone who has been to Artsakh four times, I wondered if something like this could happen to a journalist,  it could happen to anyone.  Freedom of the press is essential and violence directed toward journalists is reprehensible.”

Alexander Lapshin is a citizen of Israel, Russia, and Ukraine.  After he traveled to Artsakh, Azeri authorities issued an international arrest warrant for him, as traveling to Artsakh is considered an illegal act by Azerbaijan.  Lapshin was arrested in Belarus and extradited to Azerbaijan in 2017.   There, he was sentenced to three years in prison and claimed to be attacked in solitary confinement. Azeri officials called it an attempted suicide.  Subsequently, medical examinations conducted in Israel and independent experts in Russia and the Netherlands determined the violence was not self-inflicted.  This became the basis for a complaint filed against Azerbaijan at the European Court of Human Rights.  Following the complaint, the President of Azerbaijan pardoned Lapshin and expelled him to Israel.  ECHR found Azerbaijani authorities guilty of torturing Mr. Lapshin.

Kerkonian Dajani LLP is representing Alexander Lapshin in the United States.  Mr. Karnig Kerkonian, lead counsel, stated that the timing of Lapshin’s meeting with Senator Portantino was critical.  “Government officials must remain keenly apprised of the sheer brutality and impunity of the Aliyev regime and, of course, the monumental threat Azerbaijan poses to basic human rights.  Senator Portantino’s proactive engagement on this front is exemplary—particularly in light of Azerbaijan’s unrelating measures singularly aimed at ethnically cleansing Artsakh Armenians from their indigenous homeland.”

In 2021, Senator Portantino became first state or federal elected official to visit Artsakh since the end of the 44-day war.  During the trip, he visited Taghavard village, the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center, a school and a cemetery - witnessing first-hand the devastating effects of the war.  Prior to this visit, the Senator has traveled to Armenia and Artsakh on a number of occasions.