September 12, 2012
The Board and members of the Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York (AGLA NY) would like to officially state their dismay concerning the Hungarian government’s extradition to Azerbaijian on August 31st, 2012 of former Azerbaijan Army lieutenant Ramil Safarov, who had already served eight years in a Budapest jail for killing Gurgen Margarian in 2004. As has been widely reported in the press, Margarian, an Armenian officer who was a fellow participant in a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise, was hacked to death in his sleep with an ax by Safarov.
The Hungarian government originally stated that it transferred the prisoner to Azerbaijan on the understanding that he would serve out the rest of his life sentence in his home country. It is difficult to take such a statement at face value, given the fact that Ilham Aliyev, the dictator who runs Azerbaijian, has referred to Armenians in only the most vile of terms and continually threatened to destroy Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh by military means. In later statements it seems that Prime Minister Orban may have known all along that Margarian would be pardoned once in Azerbaijian. Not surprisingly upon his arrival in Baku, Lieutenant Safarov was pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev, restored to military duties and promoted to major. He was also given an apartment and awarded back pay for his time in prison. In the press, Safarov has been hailed as a national hero when he has perpetrated a hate crime, pure and simple.
The pardoning of Safarov sets back the quest for peace in the Caucasus, as it is a direct provocation to the Republic of Armenia.
The United States, the United Nations and other international organizations and governments should apply all available pressure on the Azeri government to honor its agreement with Hungary and return Safarov to where he belongs for the rest of his life—a jail cell. We also second the motion of the Hungarian opposition party for the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban—who has admitted to approving Safarov’s transfer to Baku—to resign immediately.
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