WASHINGTON—During a Monday, September 10 meeting at the Hungarian Embassy with Ambassador Gyorgy Szapary, the Armenian National Committee of America shared the Armenian American community’s outrage over the Hungarian government’s decision to transfer to Baku convicted Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov, despite the clear indications that he would, upon his arrival, be pardoned for his crime and praised as a national hero.
The ANCA delegation criticized the weak response from Budapest regarding Azerbaijan’s pardon and promotion of a proud and unrepentant Safarov, who was, until his extradition, serving a life sentence in Hungary for the 2004 brutal axe-murder of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, in his sleep, during a NATO English language training program.
In calling upon the Hungarian government for an open apology and a meaningful condemnation of Baku’s shameful actions, the ANCA expressed, during the course of an hour-long meeting, the full range of the community’s concerns, including the following three points:
1. It is not credible for the Hungarian government to argue that it was unaware of the obvious “pardon” loophole in its extradition treaty.
2. It is not credible for the Hungarian government to argue that it was unaware of the Azerbaijani government’s public praise of Ramil Safarov as a national hero, or the very high likelihood that this killer would be released by Ilham Aliyev if he were transferred to Baku.
3. It is not credible for the Hungarian government to argue that it was unaware that its actions would contribute to emboldening Azerbaijan to escalate its threats and acts of violence, de-stablizing the region, and setting back the cause of peace.
Worldwide suspicions that the Hungarian Government knew full well of Azerbaijan’s intention to pardon Safarov were confirmed just one day after the meeting with the Hungarian Ambassador Reuters reported Tuesday that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated, “The foreign ministry had forecast precisely what types of consequences this or the other decision [extradition or non-extradition] may have. Nothing happened after our decision that we would not have reckoned with in advance.”
Orban’s statements come as speculation continues about the connection between the Safarov’s extradition and talks between the Orban Administration and Aliyev regarding a possible Azerbaijani buy-out of Hungarian loans valuing over $2-3 Billion Euros. International financial news outlets reported the possible deal just days prior to the August 31st release of Safarov.
The Hungarian opposition Tuesday condemned Prime Minister Orban’s actions as ‘morally bankrupt,’ and called for his resignation. Thousands of Hungarians protested the Orban decision during demonstrations in Budapest last week.
Despite international criticism from the U.S., France, Russia, and NATO, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev remains defiant about his decision to pardon, promote and financially reward axe-murderer Ramil Safarov for the ethnically motivated murder of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan. Safarov’s repatriation “was carried out in accordance with European conventions, and his release in accordance with Azerbaijan’s constitution,” Reuters quoted Aliyev as stating during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Over the past week, Armenians around the world – from Calcutta, India to the United States – have protested the Orban extradition of Safarov with demonstrations in front of Hungarian embassies and consulates.
On September 7, representatives from Armenian organizations met with Dr. Gabor Garai, the Hungarian consul in Boston, to voice their outrage at the Hungarian government’s decision to extradite Ramil Safarov. During the meeting, representatives expressed their consternation at the Hungarian government’s unremorseful stance, despite being warned in advance of the consequences of the extradition. They stressed that support for Safarov in Azerbaijan is the crystallization of rabid anti-Armenian sentiments there. The delegation included ANCA Eastern Region Chairman George Aghjayan, ANCA Eastern Region Director Michelle Hagopian, Sarhad Karaguezian representing Boston’s ARF “Sardarabad” Gomideh, AYF Central Executive Board member Sosse Beugekian, and Armenian Weekly Assistant Editor Nanore Barsoumian.