About 50 people from the Armenian community in Bulgaria held a protest outside the Hungarian embassy in Sofia on September 4 2012 against Budapest’s decision to transfer to Azerbaijan military officer Ramil Safarov, convicted of the 2004 murder of Armenian lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan.
On his arrival in Baku on August 31, Safarov was pardoned byAzerbaijan’s president and given a hero’s welcome.
The protestors in Sofia submitted a letter of protest to the Hungarian embassy, saying that the behaviour of the Hungarian authorities was disgraceful. The protestors chanted “shame on Hungary”, according to local media reports. They plan new protests outside the embassy, most probably on September 11 when a football match between Bulgaria and Armenia is due.
As the Voice of America reported, on August 31 Hungary sent Safarov back to Azerbaijan.
Safarov was given a life sentence in 2006 by the Budapest City Court after he confessed to hacking to death Markaryan while the Armenian was sleeping.
The incident happened while both were in Hungary for a 2004 language course of the Nato military alliance.
Yet, as soon as Safarov arrived at the Baku airport, he received an official pardon from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
In a short statement, the president said he had decreed that Safarov “should be freed from the term of his punishment.”
Safarov told reporters that he regards his freedom as a “restoration of justice.” He said that he is “very happy” and that “it is difficult to find words” to express his feelings. Safarov said he wants to “express gratitude to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [President] Ilham Aliyev and everyone who supports him.”
In a September 3 statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Fuele said that they were “concerned” by the news of Sarafov’s pardon.
The statement said that Safarov was transferred from Hungary to Azerbaijan on August 31 on the basis of an Azerbaijani request, in the framework of the Convention of Strasbourg on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons of March 21 1983, to serve the rest of his sentence.
“EU representatives are in contact with the relevant authorities and will continue to follow the situation closely,” the statement said.
“In the interest of regional stability and on-going efforts towards reconciliation, the High Representative and Commissioner Fuele reiterate their call on Azerbaijan and Armenia to exercise restraint, on the ground as well as in public statements, in order to prevent an escalation of the situation.”
Armenia severed all diplomatic relations with Hungary after the pardon of Safarov.
The Hungarian government has since been at pains to explain itself and limit the damage, the Budapest Times reported on September 4. According to the Hungarian foreign ministry, the extradition was in line with the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons signed in Strasbourg.
The state secretary for foreign affairs and foreign trade at the prime minister’ office Péter Szijjártó said that on September 2, the foreign ministry had given the Azerbaijani ambassador in Budapest a diplomatic note, describing the events following the extradition of the murderer as “unacceptable” and “condemning” them. The Hungarian government was dismayed to learn that Safarov had been pardoned, Szijjártó said.
(for further details of this story, please visit The Budapest Times)
(Photo of Azerbaijan president Aliev: Senate RP/Polish Senate)