ANCA Urges Obama to Publicly Criticize Hungary’s Action
BUDAPEST, WASHINGTON— An Azerbaijani military officer sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for hacking to death an Armenian officer was sent back to his homeland on Friday and, despite assurances, immediately pardoned and freed by his country’s president, reported the Associated Press.
Lt. Ramil Safarov was given a life sentence in 2006 by the Budapest City Court after he confessed to killing Lt. Gurgen Markarian of Armenia while both were in Hungary for a 2004 NATO language course.
Hungary returned the 35-year-old Safarov to Azerbaijan only after receiving assurances from the Azerbaijani Justice Ministry that Safarov’s sentence, which included the possibility of parole after 25 years, would be enforced.
“The Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan has further informed the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary that Ramil Sahib Safarov’s sentence will not be modified but will immediately continue to be enforced, based on the Hungarian judgment,” the Hungarian ministry said in a statement issued before the news of Safarov’s release was known.
The ministry said it based its decision on the 1983 Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
In a brief statement posted in English on his website, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev decreed Friday that Safarov “should be freed from the term of his punishment.”
Hungary’s Justice Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Safarov’s release.
The Armenian National Committee of America issued an immediate action alert urging the community to protest Safarov’s release and wrote to President Obama on Friday urging him to “publicly criticize Hungary’s extradition of a known and unapologetic terrorist, to openly condemn Baku’s subsequent release of Safarov, and to demand his immediate re-incarceration for the remainder of his life sentence.”
The ANCA letter, signed by Chairman Ken Hachikian, stressed that: “A lack of a forceful American response to this grave injustice would, in addition to compromising our nation’s moral standing, undermine prospects for peace by emboldening an increasingly heavily armed Azerbaijani government to continue inciting its own citizens to violence and to encourage it to continue making threats and to commit actual acts of aggression.” (see letter below)
The ANCA also wrote to Ambassador Szapáry, on August 29, prior to Safarov’s release, to urge the government of Hungary to not extradite him, in the interest both of justice and the cause of peace in the Caucasus. (The text of this letter is provided below).
ANCA LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:
August 31, 2012
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing, in the spirit of your June 18, 2012 joint statement with the leaders of Russia and France, about the peaceful settlement of Nagorno Karabakh, to call upon you to condemn Azerbaijan’s release of Ramil Safarov, a lieutenant in the Azerbaijani military who was recent extradited from Hungary, where he was serving a life sentence – with no expression of either regret or remorse – for the pre-meditated axe murder of Armenian lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, in his sleep, during a NATO Partnership for Peace program.
As expected, Safarov’s return to Baku was welcomed, as was his act of murder, by officials of Ilham Aliyev’s government and much of Azerbaijani society. The Azerbaijani government apparently had committed to Hungary that they would continue his prison term; yet, Aliyev immediately pardoned him.
The facts of this brutal murder are as clear as the imperative for our government, which serves as a mediator of this conflict through the Minsk Group of the OSCE, to publicly criticize Hungary’s extradition of a known and unapologetic terrorist, to openly condemn Baku’s subsequent release of Safarov, and to demand his immediate re-incarceration for the remainder of his life sentence. A lack of a forceful American response to this grave injustice would, in addition to compromising our nation’s moral standing, undermine prospects for peace by emboldening an increasingly heavily armed Azerbaijani government to continue inciting its own citizens to violence, and encouraging it to continue its threats and actual acts of aggression.
I would like to also use this opportunity, to once again, request that you hold a personal meeting with the broad-based leadership of the Armenian American community. As I have written to you in the past, the absence of direct discussions between you and your Armenian American constituents, a dialogue you pledged as a candidate to undertake, is unhealthy both for our democracy as well as for our diplomacy.
Kenneth V. Hachikian
ANCA LETTER TO THE HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR:
August 29, 2012
His Excellency György Szapáry
The Ambassador of Hungary to the United States of America
Embassy of Hungary
3910 Shoemaker Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I am writing, in the spirit of the longstanding friendship between the Hungarian and Armenian peoples, to share with you our concerns regarding published accounts that the government of Hungary may be considering the extradition to Azerbaijan of Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant in the Azerbaijani military, who is currently serving a life sentence in your country for the February 2004 premeditated murder of Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, during a NATO Partnership for Peace program.
As you know, Safarov was convicted for murdering Lieutenant Margaryan in his sleep. The brutal violence of Safarov’s cold-blooded, pre-planned axe murder – during which he nearly severed his victim’s head – is matched only by his chilling lack of remorse or repentance for his crime. If he were to be returned to Baku, he would, very likely, be welcomed, as his act of murder was at the time, by government officials, political leaders, and many in Azerbaijani society. Safarov’s extradition, in addition to representing a serious breach of justice in a clear case of homocide, would send a dangerous signal to the Azerbaijani government, emboldening it to continue inciting its own citizens to violence and, more broadly, encouraging it to continue undertaking threats and actual acts of aggression against both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
We are, as you can imagine, hopeful that the accounts that have been published on this matter are unfounded and that consideration is not, in fact, being given to Safarov’s extradition. We would, of course, welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your staff to address our concerns in greater detail, and to discuss any other issues of common concern. Thank you for your kind consideration of our views on this matter.
Aram S. Hamparian