Armenia Suspends Ties with Hungary over Extradition of Azeri Murderer (Update)

Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani army officer who was serving a life sentence in Hungary for axing to death Armenian Lt. Gurgen Markarian, was extradited to Azerbaijan earlier today and pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Official Yerevan reacted by suspending diplomatic ties with Hungary.

Ramil Safarov

Safarov had confessed hacking to death the 26-year old Lt. 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. Safarov was found guilty of premeditated murder, and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2006, with possibility of parole after 30 years.

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 is effective from the day of signing.

Safarov’s pardon contradicts the Azerbaijani criminal code, where prisoners serving a life sentence can only be freed after serving a period of 25 years, according to reports.

“This is restoration of justice,” Safarov told news reporters in Baku. “Though I have been staying in solitary confinement for eight years abroad, I have never lost my hope. When the time came, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief solved the issue. I’m ready to serve further my state and people.”

When asked about the murder, Safarov reportedly said, “I do not want to remember that day.”

Safarov, who said the pardon was a “surprise” to him, reportedly said that his return to military service was a possibility. He is now at his family house, where he is receiving visitors, according to Azerbaijani news reports.

Head of the Department of Presidential Administration for Work with Law-Enforcement Organizations Fuad Alasgarov told the Azeri news outlet APA that “this process [of extradition] was politicized in advance. The Armenian lobby was seriously preventing his extradition to Azerbaijan… Ramil’s return to Azerbaijan became possible due to the political will of the President, who always shows fidelity to principles for the protection of the rights and interests of the Azerbaijani citizens, and his personal influence in the international arena.”

Azerbaijani media and officials seem to offer Safarov’s “emotional state” as justification for his crime. “Ramil is from Jabrayil region, which is under occupation of Armenia. He lost his relatives and these events occurred in front of his eyes and remained in his childhood memory. He faced Armenian provocations during the NATO courses when Armenian officer insulted Azerbaijani flag and people. It is possible to conceive the emotional state of the person who saw such tragedies,” said Alasgarov, who added that President Aliyev “showed great humanism” in pardoning Safarov.

“This courageous step by the President shows that as the President and Supreme Commander-in- Chief of Azerbaijan he advocates for every Azerbaijani citizen, soldier and officer. It is also a sign of solidarity of Azerbaijani people in front of the enemy,” said Alasgarov.

Hungary’s Justice Ministry said Safarov’s extradition was in line with the 1983 Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. Azerbaijan joined the convention in 2000.

Born in 1977, Safarov began his military career at a military school in Nakhichevan in 1991. According to Azerbaijani news outlets, he continued his military education in Izmir, Turkey, and later at Ankara’s Higher Military School. Returning to Azerbaijan, he continued his training, and rose up the ranks to Lieutenant. In January 2004, he enrolled at in the NATO English language program in Hungary, where he met Lt. Markaryan, and later killed him.

Armenia responds

Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian announced the suspension of diplomatic relations with Hungary, following a National Security Council meeting. Armenia’s Speaker of Parliament Hovik Abrahamyan has already cancelled a visit to Hungary, following news of Safarov’s extradition. The President also called for a meeting with foreign diplomats and international organizations in Armenia.

In his address to foreign diplomats, Sarkisian condemned Hungary’s action, and said that neither he nor his government will tolerate Hungary’s decision, and that the Armenian nation will never forgive them. “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,” said Sarkisian.

Protesters burned pictures of Safarov, and chucked tomatoes at the Hungarian embassy. (Photo shared on Twitter by @Vozni)

News of Safarov’s extradition and pardon spread in Armenia, where protesters burned pictures of Safarov, and chucked tomatoes at the Hungarian embassy, according to reports.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) issued an action alert calling on concerned individuals to contact the Hungarian Embassy, expressing their outrage.

Obama ‘deeply concerned’

“President Obama is deeply concerned by today’s announcement that the President of Azerbaijan has pardoned Ramil Safarov following his return from Hungary… We are communicating to Azerbaijani authorities our disappointment about the decision to pardon Safarov.  This action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation. The United States is also requesting an explanation from Hungary regarding its decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan,” said U.S. National Security Council (NSC) Spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The Department of State, also made a formal announcement issued by Acting Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell, in which it stated that the U.S. is “extremely troubled” by the news of Safarov’s release.

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
Nanore Barsoumian

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  1. Hungary was just hungry for money, that is all.

    I have no ill-will towards the common Hungarian folk, but their leadership shall regret this decision, this we must ensure. Let this be the day when the world learns of what happens to those who dare cross us. No more defeatist attitude. No more appeasement of others. No more weakness and playing by their rules. To hell with international norms and conventions, it’s obvious we’re the only ones who take them seriously. You can only tease the tiger so much until you unleash its fury.

  2. He said that, of course, Safarov going at large is the result of the peaceful policy of Azerbaijan, enhancing respect for Azerbaijan and its standing in the international arena.

    “Azerbaijani people and the state are known worldwide for their love of peace, they treat with respect all peoples, religions and cultures. In world history no cases of Azerbaijan’s violence, injustice against any country have been recorded. Azerbaijan has the right to expect from the other the same treatment and is very glad that Hungary was able to assess all of this,” Ahmedov said.

    I am convinced that these people have a pathological mental problem. Lunatics the lot of them.

  3. The hungarian goverment is hungry for money and they sacrifice the honor of Hungary. We, hungarian citizens don’t accept murders.

    Sorry… :(

  4. Turks help Turks all around the world – from Budapest to China. Read the last sentence in this post! Annihilation of the entire Armenian population of Western Armenia is not a genocide for them, but 46 deaths of Uighurs who managed to kill 137 Chinese people during the ethnic pogroms the Turks started IS a genocide against Turks according to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan… Go figure.

    From Azeri news:

    Budapest hosts event to mark 89th anniversary of national leader Heydar Aliyev

    Budapest, May 8 (AzerTAc). Azerbaijan`s embassy in Hungary has organized an event at the Eotvos Lorand University`s (ELTE) central library to mark the 89th anniversary of national leader Heydar Aliyev.

    Director of ELTE`s library Laszlo Sogi pointed out that Hungary has a great interest in Azerbaijan as part of the Turkic world.

  5. No Tigran,you err!!!
    They are not lunatics or anything like you imagine.THEY ARE BEASTS IN HUMAN FORMAT!!!!
    Are you aware that they murdered,nay massacred more than 5,000 Armenians back ion 1905 in Baki(read Baku,they pronounce it that wayu..)
    Their genes comes from leng Temour ,Gingiz Khan and the rest such blood-thirsty tribes that unfortunately settled in Armenia and its hjeighbouring lands.
    Be calm though, we have to deal with them with much attention.they are like hungry wolves…we need to react very CAREFULLY,les the international public-contrary to what someone wrote that we should not care what the internaational media/public think or do.No,there are a majority,albeit a silent one that does follow these people are doing and that systematically.

  6. I have to say sorry in the name of my people. I would like to explain, that the Hungarian people in general do not agree with this decision and we do not support our government in this case.

    We’re sorry for your loss and we want peace between our nations.

    from Hungary

  7. This is disturbing of course. A murderer whatever the circumstances and motivations have escaped justice.

    Maybe this will give some idea to the ASALA supporters here how it feels to be targeted for just what you are and have the killers of dozens of Turkish diplomats be treated as heros.

    • Murat,

      You are preaching US?

      I think you wanted to say instead that this will give ideas to Tallat supporters and Armenian Genocide deniers about how it feels to be targeted for just who you are.

    • Turks were not “targeted for just what they were”. They were targeted in retaliation for barbarously wiping out the near all Armenian nation and stealing of their ancestral lands. Do you appreciate the difference or self-deceiving yourself that Turks “were targeted for just what they were” is more convenient to believe and more soothing for your Turkish ears?

    • Murat was referring not to Operation Nemesis but to events like the Esenboğa bombing and the assassination of Turkish diplomats overseas- which despite popular opinion our diplomats do a whole lot more then over up the Armenian genocide.

      And Murat clearly said ASALA. They were founded in the 1970s how do you even connect that with Operation Nemesis?

      The ARF carried out operation nemesis not, ASALA. Can you appreciate the difference between the 2 Armen?

    • And, to be fair, Murat, Several high ranking ASALA members were assassinated by the Turkish counteroffensive formed after Esenboga. So some degree of justice for the families who lost loved ones to ASALA has been had, regardless of how Armenians view ASALA. In this case…. not the same deal. No justice for Lt. Markarian.

    • And where were the Justice when Soqomon killed Talat pasha and Berlin doesnt arrest him? And when killed Behbud Khan Cavanshir by armenian Misak Torlakyan, after British tribunal deported the killer to Greece and sayed he was on affect state when he killed him. Thats funny. All during the history Russians, Americans, Europeans supported Armenia because of their religion and because of their opposite and enemy state against Turks. It cant be continue forewer. We still dont give a f.. what Obama and Putin thinks. We dont affraid anyone, yes our goverment a bit cold about our poor people, but it doesnt mean that we are week. Wait for us…

    • You would be mistaken if you believe most Armenians supported ASALA. Only a fraction of those who support Dashnagsotyoun may have done so. Most Armenians repudiated murders done in our name. As of today, many of the original members of these groups have repudiated violence.

      Many of us understood the elderly man who shot the two diplomats, because he was a survivor. I don’t know anyone who thought what he did was correct. We profess Christianity. Safarov has no such claim. He looks quite happy with himself.
      He’ll be dead in two years, killed by Azeris.

    • RVDV you have balls.,. Your Turkic people murdered the whole Armenian nation. Even before the genocide, the Turkish state sponsored the murder of 30,000 Armenians in Adana alone. 30,000!!!…. Women, men and children! And yet your “appalled and condemn” the murder of a handful of Turkish diplomats as if that is so “outrageous”? What nonsense. Let me remind you that the current rulers of Turkey are the same remnants of the chief actors that killed the Armenian nation. The young Turks are still considered heroes in you country..

      The mere fact that Turkey still denies the murder of a nation means that the genocide continues today. The mere fact that Turkey blockades the Armenian border means that genocide continues today. The mere fact that Turkey teaches its youth that the Armenians were traitors and backstabbers and somehow “deserves to be liquidated” means that the genocide continues today. The mere fact that Turkey still enjoys the fruits of its mass murder, means that the genocide continues today.

      Yes i know you agree with the reality of the genocide. But that’s where it ends.

  8. Murat Asala punished turkish criminals who killed a whole nation , 1,500 000 Armenians, and because the world leaders were ignoring that fact Asala did the right thing . I think it’s the right time for Asala to be back!

  9. a Hungarian spoke “in the name of his people” presumptuously. Hungary hasn’t done anything wrong, and acted according to int’l law. Killing an innocent person is wrong. Pardoning this killer is also wrong. Punishing Hungary for the sins of Azeri rulers is also wrong.
    Hungary has been open for peace, but the Armenian leaders acted rashly and foolishly…

    • Hungarian government knew that this criminal was going to be released in Azerbaijan, but still went ahead and extradited him. That is where the problem is. If you do not see a problem there-good for you. Armenian government made the right derision to suspend all the diplomatic ties with Hungary-every single self-respecting government would have done the same.

  10. “AHungarian’ is right, the normal people in Hungary are shocked, disgusted and ashamed. This release was only for the azeri money, which is nothing new about this government – they are a bunch of thieves and maffia members, mixed with some lunatic unmorals. They throw away Hungary’s honor for 30 silver… and now they want to play the innocent, that they didn’t know this will happen. Of course. Ridiculous…

    So sorry, Armenia.

    • No, a third hungarian, not only for the azeri money, but also because some segment of the Hungarian ethnos is derived from Turkic tribes. It must have been also a blood call. And you consider yourselves Christians? Shame!

    • Grow up Serko. No one owed you an apology yet several average Hungarians have said sorry. Care to grow up and join the rest of us?

    • Whenever you grow up, RVDV, to comprehend that one should note put that much emphasis on a tiny segment of a population that apologized while disregarding the prevailing heavy majoritarian segment that showed no empathy, I promise to become you when I grow up. It is exactly the Turkish attitude that we’ve seen with the “I’m sorry” campaign for the Armenian genocide. I bet, RVDV, you rejoiced in zeal pointing out to mere 30,000 signatures disregarding the fact that only 30,000 out of 73 million apologized. How mature do you think is your attitude — numerical or moral?

    • What a revelation by Serko. Apparently, an apology is meaningless unless the vast majority of the population also agree and apologize. If those apologizing compromise only a small percentage of the population, that apology becomes meaningless.

      Before you grow up Serko, understand this. You will never meet a Turk that begs you to forgive them. Not even once. I, for my part, have said sorry and will continue to do so. If you can accept an honest apology, great. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t be asking others how mature THEIR attitude is.

  11. My government was wrong it succumbed to bribery. The current party in power is very very corrupt under Viktor Orbán and so they have taken Azeri money. I hope best for Armenia and we all think poorly of the Azeris as well as our justice system and government.

  12. Do not blame the good people of Hungary, they have suffered too in their past from the Turkish invasions. Blame their officials who were willing to accept a bribe and allow a convicted Axe Murderer to go free. Help the good people of Hungary to expose these people who made the release possible and make them accountable.

    Szabos Imek is as all Hungarians are–friends of Armenians. We can get further with our friends- Hungarians are brillant people – like Armenia in so many ways.


    Read the above about the invasions of Hungary by the Ottoman Turks, conversion of churches to Mosques and other devastations.

  13. Suspension of diplomatic ties is not the same as the full rupture of them. Suspension implies a temporary measure and is not as strong as the break of diplomatic relations. This is an ineffective half-measure on the part of the Armenian government, The ties with Hungary must have been discontinued ENTIRELY.

  14. As a neutral observer from India, I fail to understand why Azeri Government needs to take such a step. Reconcilliation is the only way for peacefull co- existence. Hungarian government may have acted for its personal gains….. but it will be the Armenia and Azerbiajan which will have to bear the scars of this shmozle…… not that there are any less scars already. A Murderer is a murderer…. and sooner or later everything will come back in one or the other form. The only way forward should be respect for human life…… irrespective of on what side of the fence it is. If at all you need to fight…… than fight with dignity. All such instances have two sides….. both the sides need to introspect and move forward. Peace and peace alone is the way out……. good people please find the way of peace and reconcilliation………..

    • Jaideep:

      assuming you are truly Indian (Buddhist), please give us Armenians the courtesy of not preaching about peace: about 2 million of our peaceful, unarmed, defenseless civilians, including women, children and babies, were slaughtered.

      NKR Armenians, having learned what happens to peaceful people who march to their deaths in long columns, stood and fought: every man, woman, and teenager. We now know of the different outcomes.

      So please: do not preach to us about war and peace.
      How many wars has India had with Pakistan ? care to tell us ?
      How peaceful can a nation be that developed nuclear weapons against its neighbors Pakistan and China ?
      Why are peaceful Indian troops killing Kashmiris ? To spread peace ? Give Me A Break.

      Would you like to tell the readers of ArmenianWeekly how peaceful Indian Buddhists massacred several thousand Muslims in India ? In 2002 ? In 2005 ?

      Note: I a greatly admire the people of India, if for nothing else, but the invention of numerals 1..9 (incorrectly called ‘Arabic’ numerals): but I hate it when people who know nothing about Armenians start giving us advice about peace.
      Very easy for 1+ BILLION Indians to preach to an Ethnos facing extinction at the hands of people who almost succeeded in erasing us from the face of the Earth.

  15. The coward hacked the Armenian to death in his sleep….history repeats itself unless soemthing is done about it – this is a perfect example of what happens when Western powers want to turn a blind eye on histroy and not condemn it for their own selfish “games”. …in the mean time it was very cowardly and “unheroic” to attack someone in their sleep – be a man and face the enemy head on – coward.

  16. We thank Armenia’s Pres. Serz Sarkisian & the Parliament for suspending relations with the Hungarian Government for releasing Safarov on the axing of Armenian Lieutenent Gurgen Margaryan in his sleep in Hungary. This inhuman act should be brought to the attention of the United Nations & all countries in protest & to take corrective action. All countries around the world should withdraw their Councilers from Azerbaijan & send back Azerbaijantsi Councilers back to Azerbaijan until Safarov is sent back to life imprisionment. The world Governments must back up Armenia on this crucial issue.

    • Stephen,

      Suspension of diplomatic relations is a minor half-measure. What do you thank the Armenian president for? Suspension implies that at any given moment the relations can be reestablished. And knowing the Armenian government, they will, and the public will never know they were restored until it is too late. Full rupture of the relations might be in order and a special operation to abduct the Azeri son of a b*** and bring him to trial to Armenia could be the best retaliatory measure so that Azeri savages know that for every Armenian life they will pay a dear price. Otherwise, suspending relations and making speeches by our president is like p****g against the wind….

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