Ramil Safarov: Murder and release
Russia Slams Azerbaijan, Hungary
Հրապարակված է՝ 03.09.2012 Russia deplored on Monday a pardon granted by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, saying that it will complicate a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Unlike the United States and the European Union, Moscow also explicitly slammed Hungary for extraditing the convicted murderer of an Armenian army lieutenant, Gurgen Markarian, to the Azerbaijani authorities.
“We believe that these actions by the Azerbaijani as well as Hungarian authorities run counter to efforts agreed upon at the international level and within the OSCE Minsk Group framework in the first instance and aimed at reducing tension in the region,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement.
Nikolay Bordyuzha, secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of six ex-Soviet states, denounced Safarov’s release from prison in stronger terms. He said the move “runs counter to the norms of international law and calls into question the viability of the inter-state system of countering crime.”
“Nothing can justify this step taken for parochial political purposes,” Bordyuzha said in a statement. “Moreover, turning the criminal into a hero will only help to heighten the already high tension in the region.”
Armenia is a member of the CSTO along with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Azerbaijan, meanwhile, dismissed the Western and Russian criticism. Bahar Muradova, a deputy speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament, said it is based on “double standards.”
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was reported to discuss the issue in a phone call with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. According to 1news.az, Mammadyarov said Baku is “bewildered” by the criticism of its actions voiced by Washington on Friday.
EU Also Concerned About Azeri Pardon
Rikard Jozwiak 03.09.2012
The European Union on Monday criticized Azerbaijan for freeing an Azerbaijani army officer who hacked to death an Armenian lieutenant in Hungary more than eight years ago.
“We are concerned by the news that the president of Azerbaijan pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of an Armenian army officer in 2004,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told a news briefing in Brussels.
“We are closely following the situation and are in contact with relevant sides to obtain more information,” said Kocijancic. “We are particularly concerned with the possible impact that these developments might have on the wider region, and therefore we call on Azerbaijan and Armenia to exercise restraint on the ground and in public statements in order to prevent any kind of escalation of this situation.”
The official stopped short of criticizing EU member state Hungary’s decision to extradite Safarov to Azerbaijan, which has been strongly condemned by Armenia. She said only that the EU leaders in Brussels are now “in touch with the Hungarian authorities.”
“This is an exchange of information. But of course this is an ongoing story, and it’s possible that there will also be an exchange of information at the EU level,” Kocijancic said. Brussels-based representatives of EU member states might discuss the matter at a meeting slated for Tuesday, she added.
Ashton’s spokeswoman avoided commenting on Armenia’s decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Hungary in response to what Yerevan sees as a secret deal on Safarov’s extradition cut by the Hungarian and Azerbaijani governments.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of Armenia’s National Security Council on Friday, President Serzh Sarkisian urged the international community to respond to the development with “clear and unequivocal actions.” “Half-measures and empty talk are not acceptable,” he said in a warning that seemed primarily addressed to Western powers.
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed through a spokesman his “deep concern” and “disappointment” with Safarov’s release later on Friday. The spokesman said Washington also expects an official explanation from the Hungarian side.
Hungary Condemns Azeri Axe-Killer’s Release
Emil Danielyan 03.09.2012
The Hungarian government has protested and condemned Azerbaijan’s decision to free a soldier found guilty of axe-murdering an Armenian serviceman that was announced immediately after his controversial extradition from Hungary.
The Azerbaijani ambassador in Budapest, Vilayat Guliyev, was summoned to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry on Sunday in connection with the pardon granted to Ramil Safarov by President Ilham Aliyev.
“Hungary finds it unacceptable and condemns the pardoning of Ramil Safarov," the Hungarian MTI news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry state secretary, Zsolt Nemeth, as telling Guliyev.
The condemnation will hardly placate Armenia’s government and public infuriated by Safarov’s release. Hundreds of people demonstrated outside Hungary’s honorary consulate in Yerevan on Friday and Saturday, pelting tomatoes and eggs on its windows and burning a Hungarian flag.
The Armenian government, for its part, cut diplomatic ties with Hungary. President Serzh Sarkisian said on Friday that the Hungarian government has repeatedly assured Yerevan that Safarov, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Hungarian court for killing Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian during a NATO training course in Budapest in 2004, will not be repatriated to Azerbaijan. He said Hungarian officials reiterated those assurances “during contacts in recent days.”
The Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Public Administration defended the extradition on Friday, saying that it stemmed from the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to which both Azerbaijan and Hungary are signatories. The ministry said it had received written guarantees from the Azerbaijan government that Safarov’s life sentence “will not be modified but will immediately be continued to be enforced.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry dismissed this explanation in a weekend statement saying that the authorities in Budapest were well aware of “the glorification and justification” of Markarian’s murder by various-level Azerbaijani officials. It said they had “sufficient grounds to doubt the continuation of the enforcement of the sentence in Azerbaijan.”
“Therefore, the Government of Hungary should have foreseen the implications of its decision to transfer Ramil Sahib Safarov … The Government of Hungary therefore shares moral responsibility for sponsoring a grave criminal act,” read the statement.
Azerbaijani officials admit that they have for years pressed official Budapest to pave the way for Safarov’s release. Zahid Oruj, a pro-government lawmaker, told News.az on Saturday that Baku opened an embassy in the Hungarian capital as part of those efforts.
According to Novruz Mammadov, a senior aide to Aliyev, government officials from the two nations have negotiated on the issue “for a long time.” “Secret talks have been held under the Azerbaijani president’s serious control for about a year,” Mammadov said on Friday, according to Azerbaijani news agencies. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Oban’s visit to Baku in early July proved decisive for the Azerbaijani officer’s release from jail, he added.
Sarkisian cited these statements when he accused Orban’s government of cutting a secret deal with Baku. He said Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora must now make the Hungarian authorities understand that they have committed a “grave mistake.”
The suspension of Armenian-Hungarian diplomatic ties was immediately followed by the cancellation of Armenian parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian’s upcoming visit to Budapest. And the Armenian police announced on Monday that they are recalling ten officers studying at a U.S.-sponsored international police academy in the Hungarian capital.
Safarov was sent back to Azerbaijan one week after a Hungarian business weekly reported that oil-rich Azerbaijan could lend Hungary 2-3 billion euros by buying a specially-issued sovereign bond denominated in Turkish lira. The Reuters news agency likewise reported earlier in August from Istanbul that Hungary is in talks with Turkey and Azerbaijan to issue sovereign bonds in local currencies.
Peter Szijjarto, a spokesman for Prime Minister Orban, denied on Sunday any connection between Safarov’s release and the possible sale of Hungarian bonds. According to the AFP news agency, Szijjarto said those who see such a link “have a lively imagination.”
Hungary Frees Azeri Officer Jailed For Brutal Killing Of Armenian
The Hungarian government defended the extradition later in the day, saying that it stems from the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to which both Azerbaijan and Hungary are signatories. “Under the Convention, a person sentenced in the territory of a Party may be transferred to the territory of another Party … in order to serve the sentence imposed on him,” the Hungarian Ministry of Public Administration and Justice said in a statement posted on its website.
The statement said the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice had assured the Hungarian side that Safarov’s life sentence “will not be converted but will immediately be continued to be enforced.” “Persons sentenced to life imprisonment [in Azerbaijan] may, at the earliest, be conditionally released after serving a period of twenty-five years,” it added, citing the ministry.
A Hungarian court convicted Safarov, now aged 35, in 2006 of murdering a 26-year-old Armenian lieutenant, Gurgen Markarian, in a “premeditated, malicious and an unusually cruel” way by nearly decapitating him with axe in February 2004 while the victim slept in a dormitory used by participants in a NATO language course.
Safarov was also found guilty of planning the murder of another Armenian, which he did not carry out. He was supposed to be eligible for parole in 30 years.
“Compassion and remorse were completely missing from [Safarov's] testimony,” the judge in the case, Andras Vaskuti, said upon announcing the verdict that was subsequently upheld by an appeals court in Budapest.
Safarov said during his trial that the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was at the root of his act. He also claimed that the Armenian officer had repeatedly provoked and ridiculed him.
Safarov was reported to thank Aliyev for the “humane act” on his return to Baku. “This is a triumph of justice,” he told the APA news agency. “It was somewhat unexpected to me.”
“I hail the entire Azerbaijani people,” he said, according to the official AzerTaj news agency. “I express deep gratitude for the attention and care shown towards myself and my family members during all these years.”
Official Baku, meanwhile, praised the Hungarian authorities for effectively freeing Safarov. “The Azerbaijani side has worked in that direction for a while, and we highly appreciate the Hungarian side’s cooperation on this issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev told the Trend news agency.
Predictably, Safavor’s release sparked outrage in Armenia where many people had attributed Markarian’s brutal murder to what they see as anti-Armenian hysteria fanned by the Baku government. Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), condemned the development, saying that the Hungarian side knew that Markarian’s murderer will walk free if repatriated.
In a written statement, Sharmazanov also described the pardon granted by Aliyev as “appalling.” He said it “once again proved that a policy of anti-Armenian fascism is implemented at the state level in Azerbaijan.”
There was no immediate official reaction from the Armenian government, though.
Armenia Suspends Diplomatic Relations With Hungary
Emil Danielyan 31.08.2012
Armenia suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary on Friday, furiously condemning the NATO and European Union member state for effectively freeing the convicted Azerbaijani killer of an Armenian army officer.
President Serzh Sarkisian announced the decision at a meeting with the Yerevan-based ambassadors of foreign states and representatives of international organizations. It followed an emergency session of Armenia’s National Security Council that discussed implications of Ramil Safarov’s extradition to Azerbaijan and a pardon immediately granted to him By President Ilham Aliyev.
“With these joint actions, Hungary’s and Azerbaijan’s authorities have cleared the way for a repeat of such crimes,” Sarkisian told the foreign envoys. “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.”
“I can not tolerate that,” he said. “The Republic of Armenia can not tolerate that. The Armenian people will not forgive that.”
“I am officially declaring that today we are suspending diplomatic relations and all official contacts with Hungary,” he added.
Armenia and Hungary have no embassies in each other’s capitals. The Armenian ambassador to the Central European state is based in Vienna. Turkey has until now been the only NATO member state with which Yerevan has no formal diplomatic ties.
The Hungarian government said earlier in the day that its decision to send Safarov back to Azerbaijan, ostensibly to have him serve the rest of his life sentence there, is based on the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
Sarkisian insisted, however, that official Budapest simply cut a secret deal with the Azerbaijani government after having repeatedly assured Yerevan that the Azerbaijani army lieutenant will remain behind bars in Hungary. He said officials at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and parliament reiterated those assurances “during contacts in recent days.”
Sarkisian went to urge the international community to respond to the development with “clear and unequivocal actions.” “Half-measures and empty talk are not acceptable,” he warned. “We will judge the attitude of our partners towards the security of the Armenian people by their response to this incident.”
The warning seemed primarily addressed to Western powers. Sarkisian noted that after Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian was axe-murdered by Safarov during a NATO training course in Budapest in 2004 they were “continually urging us to refrain from politicizing that process.” “We were continually urged to trust the judiciary of Hungary, a member of that important alliance,” he said.
The Armenian leader did not specify whether he expects NATO and the EU to also explicitly condemn the Hungarian government. Sarkisian has boosted Yerevan’s ties with both Western structures since coming to power in 2008.
The president spoke of implications of Safarov’s release for the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh when he addressed his National Security Council earlier in the day. He ordered Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian to put Armenian army units on a higher state of alert and said he will give the head of the National Security Service, Gorik Hakobian, an unspecified “special assignment.”
Sarkisian said he has also told Armenian diplomatic missions abroad as well as Armenian Diaspora groups to launch public relations campaigns. “The Hungarian authorities must understand that they have committed a serious blunder,” he said.