Armenia Suspends Relations With Hungary Following Extradition and Pardon of Azeri Criminal

The official reaction of Armenia to the extradition by Hungary of an Azerbaijani criminal condemned to life prison and subsequent pardon of the President of Azerbaijan is the unavoidable follow-up to a diplomatic defeat against the double standards showed by the international community in the interplay between material interests and moral responsibilities. Similar actions to repeal criminal attitudes are also needed to prevent intolerable legal charades within the frontiers of Armenia.

On Friday, August 31, the President of Armenia, Serge Sargsian, suspended all relations with Hungary in the aftermath of that country's decision to covertly extradite an Azeri officer who brutally murdered an Armenian soldier in 2004 during a joint NATO military retreat, reported the presidential press service.
After meeting with the Armenian National Security Council, Serge Sargsian convened a meeting of foreign diplomatic corps to convey Armenia’s anger and its decision to immediately suspend relations with Hungary.
Lt. Ramil Safarov, sentenced to life prison in Hungary for hacking to death Armenian officer Lt. Gurgen Margarian, was sent back to Azerbaijan on Friday and, despite assurances to the contrary, was immediately pardoned and freed by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.
Safarov was given a life sentence in 2006 by the Budapest City Court after he confessed to killing Margarian while both were in Hungary for a 2004 NATO language course. 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.
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.
In very terse remarks, Sargsian condemned Hungary for the transfer and also criticized the international community for not responding to apparent warning by Armenia, which adhered to international calls to not politicize the case.
In an earlier meeting with Armenia’s National Security Council, Sargsian announced that he has instructed the defense ministry to place all troops on high alert, urged the National Assembly to convene an emergency session. He also announced that he has a “special assignment” for the head of Armenia’s National Security Service, Gorik Hakopyan.
Below is the text of Sargsian’s remarks to diplomats as presented by the presidential office (with minor edits):
“Distinguished Ambassadors:
Unfortunately, today we invited you to the President’s Office on an extraordinary occasion. As you should know, an officer of the Azeri military who had killed Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan was transferred to Azerbaijan. The President of Azerbaijan – and we have been warning about it – has immediately granted pardon to him.
This has happened because the Government of Hungary, a member State of the European Union and NATO, has made a deal with the authorities of Azerbaijan.
I do not want to revisit the circumstances of the murder of Gurgen Margaryan; you are very well aware of them. As the trial had demonstrated, the horrendous manslaughter took place only because Gurgen Margaryan was an Armenian.
Immediately after this crime had been perpetrated, the Hungarian authorities, as well as our partners – EU and NATO member States, were continually urging us to refrain from politicizing that process. We were continually urged to trust the judiciary of Hungary, a member State to those important alliances.
We have been closely following all the developments around that criminal. This issue has been discussed during each and every meeting with the President, Speaker of the Parliament, Foreign Minister and Ambassador of Hungary, and we have been assured on numerous occasions that such a transfer or a return of a criminal to Azerbaijan was excluded. We have received that same response to our requests during our contacts just a few days ago with the representatives of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and Parliament. But, as a result of perfidious developments, the murderer has turned up in Baku and got released.
I have nothing to say about Azerbaijan – just plainly nothing. That country speaks about itself with the actions it takes, and I am not the one to explain those steps.
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen:
With their joint actions the authorities of Hungary and Azerbaijan have opened the door for the recurrence of such crimes. With this decision they convey a clear message to the butchers. The slaughterers hereafter are well aware of impunity they can enjoy for the murder driven by ethnic or religious hatred.
I officially announce that as of today we suspend diplomatic relations and all official contacts with Hungary.
We expect a precise and unambiguous response by all our partners with regard to this incident.
Anyone who tolerates this will tomorrow be held responsible to history.
Half-measures and circumlocution are not acceptable.
We will judge the attitude of our partners towards the security of the Armenian nation by their response to this incident.
I request you urgently to convey this as my personal message to the Heads of your States and Governments.
That is all I wanted to say. I do not know if Q&A will make sense or not. I think it will not, since what happened can hardly be accommodated by a reasonable mind. A country that considers itself developed and civilized does not have the right to behave this way and it well deserves proper assessment by its partners.”
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his disappointment with Hungary's actions. The White House statement, issued in the name of National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor, underscored the President’s view that, “This action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation.” Vietor went on to note that “The United States is also requesting an explanation from Hungary regarding its decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan.”
The Department of State, through a formal announcement issued by Acting Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell, also took a stand against Hungary’s extradition and Azerbaijan’s pardon, explaining that: “The United States is extremely troubled by the news that the President of Azerbaijan pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, who returned to Baku today following his transfer from Hungary. . . . We are expressing our deep concern to Azerbaijan regarding this action and seeking an explanation. We are also seeking further details from Hungary regarding the decision to transfer Mr. Safarov to Azerbaijan.”
On Saturday, September 1, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev promoted Ramil Safarov from the rank of Lieutenant to Major.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.

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.”
"Asbarez," August 31, 2012
"The Armenian Weekly," September 1, 2012

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