Armenia fumes over Hungary’s “deal” with Azerbaijan to hand over axe-murderer

Armenia fumes over Hungary’s “deal” with Azerbaijan to hand over axe-murderer


Anti-Hungarian protests were held in Yerevan over the weekend after official Budapest extradited a confessed murderer of an Armenian army officer to Azerbaijan where he was immediately pardoned by the country’s president.

Armenia was quick to suspend diplomatic relations and all official ties with Hungary on Friday accusing the Eastern European country’s government of striking a deal with Azerbaijan in allowing Ramil Safarov to be taken back home. Safarov was serving a life sentence in a Budapest jail after being found guilty of murdering Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan while he was asleep in 2004. Both men were taking part in NATO’s English-language courses in Budapest. Under the verdict passed on him, Safarov was not eligible for pardon for at least 30 years.

“With these joint actions, Hungary’s and Azerbaijan’s authorities have cleared the way for a repeat of such crimes. They are sending a message to murderers. They [murderers] know now that a murder committed on the basis of religious or ethnic hatred can go unpunished,” Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told foreign envoys in Yerevan on August 31 shortly after discussing the matter at the meeting of the National Security Council.

He urged the foreign diplomats to communicate Armenia’s resentment over Hungary to the leaders in their countries and said Yerevan expected clear reactions from them.

The U.S. reaction came shortly, with Azerbaijan and its president Ilham Aliyev being the main targets of criticism.

“President Obama is deeply concerned by today’s announcement that the President of Azerbaijan has pardoned Ramil Safarov following his return from Hungary,” Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said in a statement late on Friday. “We are communicating to Azerbaijani authorities our disappointment about the decision to pardon Safarov. This action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation.”

“The United States is also requesting an explanation from Hungary regarding its decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan,” the official added.

The Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, which formally authorized Safarov’s repatriation, said earlier that the decision was in line with international conventions.

Earlier, the Armenian National Congress of America, the largest American advocacy group in the United States, demanded an official reaction from Obama and urged Armenian Americans to send similar petitions to the White House.

Meanwhile, Russia and France, the other two countries co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group, have so far been tightlipped on the development.

The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are due to meet with the Minsk Group co-chairs in Paris on Sunday and Monday, respectively. The issue is likely to be on the agenda of the talks. It is also expected to come up during the visit of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the region next week. (Hungary is a member of NATO as well as the European Union).

Meanwhile, representatives of different political groups and youth organizations staged protests near the consulate of Hungary in Yerevan, throwing tomatoes and coins at it, burning the images of Ramil Safarov and then a Hungarian flag. A protest was also held near the Foreign Ministry building near Republic Square, with its participants demanding a resignation of Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan over his failure to prevent the developments.

Armenia’s Ministry of the Diaspora, meanwhile, issued a call on Armenians worldwide to show their anger and resentment over Hungary’s conduct by staging protests and campaigning otherwise.

Meanwhile, Safarov, 35, received a hero’s welcome at home where he was promoted to the rank of major, also receiving hefty material benefits from the government of Azerbaijan.

Many experts in Armenia believe the kind of attitude shown by the authorities in Baku to Safarov is a heavy blow to the current negotiations over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh and delays the prospect of peace in the region indefinitely. Some political groups in Armenia have even called on the government to withdraw from the talks and start a formal process on the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.

To see ArmeniaNow’s coverage of the original news see:

A Savage Killing: Murder of officer at NATO peace program provokes outrage - (February 27, 2004)

Margaryan Killing: Second Armenian officer recounts a night of horror in Budapest – (March 5, 2004)

War Talk: Rhetoric sharpens but renewed conflict with Azerbaijan seen as unlikely - (March 5, 2004)

Margaryan Killing: Preliminary inquiry nears its end - (April 30, 2004)