BY NANORE BARSOUMIAN
From The Armenian Weekly
Armenia’s Justice Minister to Hungarian counterpart: I would have resigned
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev has promoted Ramil Safarov from the rank of Lieutenant to Major, a day after the latter was extradited to Azerbaijan from Hungary and received a pardon from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, reported News.az.
Abiyev congratulated Safarov on his return to the country. The Ministry also awarded Safarov over eight years’ worth of salary for the time he spent in a Hungarian prison, and gifted him with an apartment.
Safarov was found guilty of premeditated murder, and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2006, with possibility of parole after 30 years, after confessing hacking to death 26-year old Armenian Lt. Gurgen Markarian while the latter was asleep in his dormitory room. Safarov and the victim were in Hungary for a NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace English language courses in 2004. Safarov had struck Markaryan 16 times with an axe, almost decapitating him. Following the murder he had walked over to another Armenian officer’s room, hoping to commit a second murder, but had found his door locked.
Azerbaijan’s Justice Ministry had assured officials in Hungary that Safarov would continue serving his sentence in Azerbaijan. However, hours after his arrival on an Azerbaijani Airways special flight, President Aliyev signed an order to pardon Safarov. The pardon became effective on the day of signing.
Praise for pardon in Azerbaijan
Commenting on Safarov’s extradition and pardon, Azerbaijani MP Ganira Pashayeva told an Azeri news outlet that “this is a great event not only for Azerbaijanis living in Azerbaijan, but for the whole Turkish people living inside and outside Azerbaijan.”
“Ramil is one of the heroes of our people. I congratulate our people and his relatives. I believe that Ramil was always beneficial for his people and will continue to be so,” said Pashayeva, who added that this was a message to the youth that the state will support all those who serve their country.
In an interview with News.az, member of Azerbaijan’s Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security Zahid Oruj said that his government was “twice able to negotiate with the Hungarian side to release [Safarov,]” but the efforts were fruitless—once due to the resignation of Hungarian President Pal Schmitt, and another time due to the resignation of the Minister of Justice.
Oruj, who—along with MP Azay Guliyev—was directly involved in securing Safarov’s extradition, also claimed that the purpose of opening an Azerbaijani embassy in Hungary was to secure Safarov’s release. “The main purpose of the establishment of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Hungary was to ensure the legal protection of Ramil Safarov. Azerbaijan in a short time was able to bring its relations with Hungary to the highest level,” he said, and added that President Aliyev, through securing Safarov’s release, “has made a contribution to the liberation of Karabakh.”
Oruj also said that the Azerbaijani people experienced “anxiety” when Safarov was imprisoned, and that his release will help “raise the moral and psychological mood of the society.”
Armenian Justice Minister sends letter to Hungarian counterpart
Armenian Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasyan, in a letter addressed to his counterpart, Hungarian Administration and Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics, expressed his “indignation and concern” at Ramil Safarov’s extradition.
“I am certain that you should have known what will happen with Safarov in Azerbaijan. You should have known that you [were] transfer[ing] a person, having committed a murder based on motive of racial hostility, to a country where he is considered a hero. You must have known that [this] is a slap first of all to the justice of Hungary and generally to the whole European value system,” wrote Tovmasyan.
Tovmasyan said that he did not believe that Azerbaijan’s assurances to Navracsics were satisfactory. “You should not have transferred Safarov to a country where he was made a hero by the Azerbaijani authorities for years,” he said.
“I would have resigned in your place as a minister,” wrote Tovmasyan. “However, even in case of resignation, the family of Gurgen Margaryan, the Armenian people, and the whole progressive humanity will remember you as the one having ‘justified’ the murderer,” he added.
Tovmasyan concluded by saying that his ministry will break all bilateral relations with the Ministry of Administration and Justice of Hungary.
A day earlier, Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian announced the suspension of diplomatic relations with Hungary, following a National Security Council meeting
Nanore Barsoumian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).