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International Justice for Armenian soldier, Gurgen Margaryan

from compiled reports of Asbarez. September 12, 2012.

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 09:32 PM UT

Slain Armenian soldier Gurgen Margaryan's funeral.

Members of Congress Continue to Express Outrage Over Safarov Release

by Asbarez. September 11, 2012.

WASHINGTON—The Azerbaijani pardon, promotion and compensation of convicted Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov, and its harmful effects on the Nagorno Karabakh peace process, continue to be a source of considerable concern for members of the U.S. Congress, with new statements condemning the actions being released on nearly a daily basis, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Congressional Armenian Genocide resolution lead sponsor Robert Dold (R-IL) today called the Hungarian government’s extradition and President Aliyev’s glorification of Safarov “deeply disturbing,” noting that “rather than work to reduce tensions, this act shows a blatant disregard for the reconciliation and peace process.”

Those remarks come on the heels of a weekend statement by Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) who called Aliyev’s actions “without justification” and argued that, “Azerbaijan has acted to undermine justice and further strain its relationship with Armenia to the detriment of all, and to the benefit of no one but a self confessed murderer.”

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who has been an outspoken critic of Azerbaijan’s threats of war and attacks against neighboring Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, said he was “aghast” at the extradition and pardon of Safarov and “outraged and disgusted by the reception that Safarov was given upon returning to Azerbaijan.” Senator Menendez called on the Hungarian government to “demand Safarov’s return to Hungary to complete the remainder of his life sentence. It is clear that the Azeri government cannot be counted on to adhere to its international or bilateral obligations with respect to this matter.”

All three U.S. Congressmen from California’s Central Valley – Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) – have also condemned Azerbaijan’s actions.

In statement sent to local constituents, with portions quoted in The Fresno Bee, Rep. Costa was explicit in his denunciation of the Azerbaijani government action. “This injustice of international law committed by the government of Azerbaijan is an outrage, plain and simple. This illegal pardon glorifies a heinous crime committed against an innocent Armenian soldier and does a severe disservice to the peace process in the region. I believe Hungary was complicit in this action.”

In a joint statement issued by Representatives Denham and Nunes, the Congressmen noted that “Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s decision to pardon Ramil Safarov, who was convicted of killing Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan in 2004, undermines respect for the rule of law, and sets back efforts for a fair and lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The action is highly disappointing and will undermine efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh issue.”

Members of Congress who have condemned Azerbaijan’s release of Safarov to date include, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Menendez, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Representatives Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Robert Dold, Anna Eshoo (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Devin Nunes (R-CA), John Sarbanes, Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA).

International Criticism of Hungarian and Azerbaijani Actions Continues
The continued outpouring of Congressional concern reflects the broad-based international outrage surrounding the extradition and pardon of Azerbaijani Army Lieutenant Ramil Safarov, who was convicted of brutally axing to death Armenian soldier Gurgen Margaryan in his sleep, during a 2004 NATO English-language training course.

The U.S. was among the first to comment on the travesty on August 31st, with a statement issued by The White House in the name of National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor, underscoring 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.”

The issue has been brought up repeatedly at State Department press briefings since the scandal broke.

On the international front, France, Russia and a host of nations have condemned the action, with reports that the European Parliament may take up a resolution on the topic as early as this week. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, during a joint press conference with Pres. Aliyev in Baku on September 7th, stated: “I am deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani decision to pardon Ramil Safarov. The act he committed in 2004 was a crime which should not be glorified, as this damages trust and does not contribute to the peace process.”

Meanwhile, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s decision to extradite Safarov was roundly criticized through protests and strong statements in his own country. After Orban admitted, during a press conference, that “the foreign ministry had forecast precisely what types of consequences this or the other decision [extradition or non-extradition] may have,” and that “nothing happened after our decision that we would not have reckoned with in advance,” opposition forces called the government “morally bankrupt” and urged the prime minister’s immediate resignation.


Thousands of Hungarians protested Safarov's extradition in Hungary.

Hungarian Opposition Calls on ‘Morally Bankrupt’ Orban to Quit

by Asbarez. September 11, 2012.

BUDAPEST, Hungary (MTI) — The prime minister is “morally bankrupt” and should resign after admitting that he personally approved the transfer of the Azeri axe murderer while knowing the likely consequences, the leader of the opposition Socialists said on Sept. 11.

Attila Mesterhazy said it was clear from Orban’s comments at a news conference today that he had been aware that Azerbaijan would release the life-sentenced Ramil Safarov after his repatriation.

Mesterhazy said Orban had been warned by Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics about the likely consequences and he took the decision nevertheless. Orban took this decision “without thinking” and is the only one to blame for the scandal, he added.

If Orban refuses to resign, Fidesz lawmakers should try to control him and prevent his actions from causing further damage to the country, the Socialist leader said.

Orban told a press conference earlier in the day that “nothing happened after our decision that we did not expect”. He was responding to an article published by the online news portal which accused Orban of ordering the transfer of Ramil Safarov with full knowledge that he would be released on his return to his homeland sooner or later.

Orban said the decision was taken at a government level and all ministries affected were involved, but he, “naturally, as always,” had the final say.

Janos Lazar, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, rejected news website’s information that the issue had been discussed at a recent Fidesz board session. He said that Prime Minister Viktor Orban had not given any kind of instruction to transfer Safarov, nor had he been in a position to.

Mesterhazy insisted that Lazar had been “lying” when he told Origo that Orban had “not given any orders” to repatriate Safarov.

The topic of the repatriation of the Azeri axe murderer to his native Azerbaijan was taken off the agenda of the parliamentary national security committee’s Sept. 11 session at the initiative of ruling Fidesz deputy Mate Kocsis.

Mesterhazy said he disagreed with this decision, saying a national security investigation into the transfer would be appropriate.

Safarov, sentenced to life imprisonment for killing an Armenian in Budapest in 2004, was transferred from Hungary to Azerbaijan on Aug. 31. On arrival in Baku, he was pardoned by the president and released. Armenia suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary later that day.


Hungary's Ambassador to U.S. Gyorgy Szapary.

ANCA Expresses Outrage to Hungarian Ambassador

by Asbarez. September 11, 2012

WASHINGTON — During a Monday, September 10 meeting at the Hungarian Embassy with Ambassador Gyorgy Szapary, the Armenian National Committee of America shared the Armenian American community’s outrage over the Hungarian government’s decision to transfer to Baku convicted Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov, despite the clear indications that he would, upon his arrival, be pardoned for his crime and praised as a national hero.

The ANCA delegation criticized the weak response from Budapest regarding Azerbaijan’s pardon and promotion of a proud and unrepentant Safarov, who was, until his extradition, serving a life sentence in Hungary for the 2004 brutal axe-murder of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, in his sleep, during a NATO English language training program.

In calling upon the Hungarian government for an open apology and a meaningful condemnation of Baku’s shameful actions, the ANCA expressed, during the course of an hour-long meeting, the full range of the community’s concerns, including the following three points:

  1. It is not credible for the Hungarian government to argue that it was unaware of the obvious “pardon” loophole in its extradition treaty.
  2. It is not credible for the Hungarian government to argue that it was unaware of the Azerbaijani government’s public praise of Ramil Safarov as a national hero, or the very high likelihood that this killer would be released by Ilham Aliyev if he were transferred to Baku.
  3. It is not credible for the Hungarian government to argue that it was unaware that its actions would contribute to emboldening Azerbaijan to escalate its threats and acts of violence, de-stablizing the region, and setting back the cause of peace.

Worldwide suspicions that the Hungarian Government knew full well of Azerbaijan’s intention to pardon Safarov were confirmed just one day after the meeting with the Hungarian Ambassador Reuters reported Tuesday that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated, “The foreign ministry had forecast precisely what types of consequences this or the other decision [extradition or non-extradition] may have. Nothing happened after our decision that we would not have reckoned with in advance.”

Orban’s statements come as speculation continues about the connection between the Safarov’s extradition and talks between the Orban Administration and Aliyev regarding a possible Azerbaijani buy-out of Hungarian loans valuing over $2-3 Billion Euros. International financial news outlets reported the possible deal just days prior to the August 31st release of Safarov.

The Hungarian opposition Tuesday condemned Prime Minister Orban’s actions as ‘morally bankrupt,’ and called for his resignation. Thousands of Hungarians protested the Orban decision during demonstrations in Budapest last week.

Despite international criticism from the U.S., France, Russia, and NATO, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev remains defiant about his decision to pardon, promote and financially reward axe-murderer Ramil Safarov for the ethnically motivated murder of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan. Safarov’s repatriation “was carried out in accordance with European conventions, and his release in accordance with Azerbaijan’s constitution,” Reuters quoted Aliyev as stating during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Over the past week, Armenians around the world – from Calcutta, India to the United States – have protested the Orban extradition of Safarov with demonstrations in front of Hungarian embassies and consulates.

On September 7, representatives from Armenian organizations met with Dr. Gabor Garai, the Hungarian consul in Boston, to voice their outrage at the Hungarian government’s decision to extradite Ramil Safarov. During the meeting, representatives expressed their consternation at the Hungarian government’s unremorseful stance, despite being warned in advance of the consequences of the extradition. They stressed that support for Safarov in Azerbaijan is the crystallization of rabid anti-Armenian sentiments there. The delegation included ANCA Eastern Region Chairman George Aghjayan, ANCA Eastern Region Director Michelle Hagopian, Sarhad Karaguezian representing Boston’s ARF “Sardarabad” Gomideh, AYF Central Executive Board member Sosse Beugekian, and Armenian Weekly Assistant Editor Nanore Barsoumian.


A scene from the Safarov protest in New York on Monday, September 10, 2012.

Hundreds Protest Safarov Release in New York

by Asbarez. September 11, 2012.

NEW YORK — A broad-based coalition of Armenian American political, religious, student and youth organizations rallied against Hungary’s extradition and Azerbaijan’s pardon of axe-murderer Ramil Safarov on Monday, Sept. 10 in front of the Hungarian Consulate.

The event, which was held from 6:30 to 8 p.m., was attended by Armenians of all walks of life and who hail from a variety of organizations. The organizations who participated and/or sponsored the protest included: The AYF-YOARF New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter, the AYF-YOARF New York “Hyortik” Chapter, the ARF New Jersey “Dro” Gomideh, ANCA of New York, ANCA of New Jersey, the ARF New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh, the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, the Eparchy of Armenian Catholics of the USA & Canada, AGBU Young Professionals of Greater New York, Knights of Vartan & Daughters of Vartan, ASA of New York, Armenian Society of Columbia University, Rutgers ASA, and ACYOA Chapters of Holy Martyrs (NY), St. Leon’s (NJ) and St. Stepanos (NJ). There were well more than 300 protesters in all.

“Tonight’s protest and candlelight vigil follow similar protests by Armenian and non-Armenians around the world calling for justice. Justice not only for Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, but also for all Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabagh. It is unfathomable to see any circumstance in which any Armenian in Nagorno-Karabagh could ever again live under Azerbaijani rule,” said ANCA Eastern Region board member James Sahagian.

Buses from Sts. Vartanantz and St. Leon Armenian Churches in New Jersey shuttled participants into the city. Once off the bus, protesters were greeted with chants from an already large crowd in front of the consulate.

Protesters echoed chants from Doug Geogerian (ANCA of New York chairman) such as “We want justice now,” “Jail Safarov” and “Turkey is a liar,” among other things. Naz Markarian, AYF of New York community leader, and Yervant Kachichian of the AYF Eastern Region Central Executive also led chants.

After the chanting died down, protesters were given candles while Markarian gave a fiery speech before Natalie Gabrielian (AGBU Associate Director of Education) took the microphone. Michelle Hagopian, eastern region director of the ANCA, also spoke to round out the program.

“As the weeks press on and as the media moves past this event, we must never forget. Safarov’s pardon is another tragedy to add to the Armenian history timeline. We have responded with passion thus far. Let us continue to do so and show that the Armenian people will not be shoved around. Let us prove that our history will not repeat itself,” Hagopian said in her speech.

Protesters were also given flowers to place in front of a sign commemorating Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, which was left in front of the doors of the consulate. Dozens of flowers and candles were placed on the ground for passersby to witness on the sidewalk.

Participants held Armenian flags and a multitude of signs, which included phrases like “Justice for Gurgen Margaryan” and “In Hungary justice is for sale.”

Toward the end of the rally, members of the AYF held aloft a copy of the OSCE’s “Madrid Principles,” which outline a solution to the Karabagh problem in accordance with Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The youth announced that Azerbaijan has demonstrated, yet again, that it is unfit to govern Karabagh and that these principles must therefore be considered null and void. In a symbolic gesture, they then proceeded to burn the document before all those assembled.

The event concluded with remarks from local clergymen and the singing of the Hayr Mer. Dozens of pedestrians and drivers stopped or inquired about the event, asking who Safarov and Margaryan were and what significance the event held.

Armenian chess champions greeted by Armenian President Sarkisian (left photo);
Azerbaijan's hero axe-murderer Ramil Safarov.

Of Chess Champions and Axe Murderers

Two neighboring countries welcomed national heroes to their midst. As the world watched, a definitive picture has emerged that magnifies — in no uncertain terms — the contrast between civilized people and barbarians...

— Ara Khachatourian

by Ara Khachatourian.
Asbarez, September 10, 2012.

The streets of Yerevan thundered with cheers and jubilation Monday night as throngs of residents flocked to the streets to welcome Armenia’s National Chess team which had retuned from Istanbul where it had beat the Hungarian team to win gold and clench the title of world champion.

Fireworks lit up the Yerevan sky and social media was buzzing with excitement and pride as our national heroes came home victorious.

Under normal circumstances, the chess victory would still have been a source of pride and excitement, but would not have had historic implications. However, under the dark cloud of the Ramil Safarov incident, Armenia’s victory in Istanbul against Hungary and last week’s absurd images from Baku, where Azeris celebrated the return of an axe-murderer as hero turned irony into pathos.

It was indeed ironic that Armenia was left to battle Hungary in the chess finals. Victory was even sweeter, since Armenia has suspended all relations with Hungary over its decision to extradite the Azeri soldier Ramil Safarov who brutally killed Armenian officer Gourgen Margaryan in 2004. It was also poignant to hear the Armenian national anthem in Istanbul.

The recent developments have, once again, put into perspective the crux of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and highlighted the gains and losses that have played out during the course of the war and the ensuing peace process.

What began as a democratic movement under Glasnost and Perestroika for Armenians demanding their rights, turned violent when Azerbaijan began a wave of brutal massacres and pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad, Baku, Shahumian and Getashen. When Armenians were under relentless Grad missile attacks they banded to fight a war imposed on them and emerged victorious. Modern day heroes were born and hundreds joined the pantheon that boasts selfless individuals who have put the survival of the nation first. Azeris retreated without heroes and 20 years later live in squalor as a few in Azerbaijan reap the benefits of its oil wealth. They were forced to create heroes, namely Haydar Aliyev, who is the architect of the current regime that thrives on and perpetuates hatred and brutality.

During the peace negotiations, Azerbaijan has continued to threaten war, kill innocent civilians, and domestically stifle those who have advocated change in favor of criminals and bandits. Official Baku, through its president, has said that every Armenian is the state’s enemy and must be dealt with accordingly.

While Armenia has not been without its own troubles in the continued quest to protect human rights and justice, it has never officially called for the destruction and murder of an entire race.

Decades ago as the world watched the brutal pogrom of Armenians with the same tacit “concern” as expressed when Safarov was extradited and then pardoned, the great human rights advocate and activist Andrei Sakharov said that the Karabakh conflict is “matter of prestige” for Azerbaijan, while for Armenians it is “a matter of life and death.”

So many deaths, including that of Gurgen Margaryan’s could have been prevented had the international community, especially the US, Russia and Europe, did not sit idly by and exert pressures in their absurd efforts to advance so-called parity in the name of advancing peace.

The Karabakh conflict resolution process is at a crossroads now. Azerbaijan’s blatant support and glorification of an Armenian killer should not go unpunished by the stakeholders who claim to have the region’s best interests at heart. Their “concerns” should have turned to anger and condemnation when in the days following Safarov’s extradition, Azerbaijan continued its sub-human policies and elevated the axe-killer to a hero.

The US continues to say that it is looking for answers from Baku, and the NATO secretary general last week guardedly asked for an explanation and instead got the middle finger from Ilham Aliyev.

However late in the game, it is time for the international community to recalibrate its position and begin to not ignore bellicose statements and acts by Azerbaijan and view them as a threat to not only to Armenia and Armenians, but their own efforts at establishing peace in the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday pledged to work to defuse tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of the upcoming United National General Assembly. One way to ensure that their efforts hold any credence is to use the pulpit of the General Assembly to loudly condemn Azerbaijan and any other nation that promotes hatred, murder and glorifies those who commit them as a state policy.

Two neighboring countries welcomed national heroes to their midst. As the world watched, a definitive picture has emerged that magnifies—in no uncertain terms—the contrast between civilized people and barbarians: A nation proudly welcoming a group that for several weeks has been representing his country in an international competition and is returning a hero having leveraged sportsmanship, acumen and conviction and another nation proudly welcoming a person who wielded an axe, viciously and brutally murdering another human being.

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