EDITORIAL: Criminal Ramil Safarov Returns to Azerbaijan

Few will have failed to hear about the shameful actions of Hungary in the news this month regarding its actions that not only led to the release of a convicted Azerbaijani murderer, but also made him into an overnight hero in his home country.

Ramil Safarov is a murderer. In 2006, he confessed to brutally killing Armenian Army lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan at a NATO-sponsored English course in Budapest by bludgeoning him to death with an axe. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment: not by a judicially underdeveloped dictatorship, but by Hungary, an EU member applying EU judicial standards.

As expected, Azerbaijan swiftly started applying pressure to have their citizen extradited back to his home country where he would be out of the reach of anyone wanting to bring him to justice. They gave assurances of the serving of justice that any Luddite with even a shaky grasp of regional history would have instantly laughed off as a joke. They combined this with their newly found weapons for international arm-twisting: oil and money.

The same EU standards that Hungary proudly applied in the original case were soon forgotten when the disastrous decision was made that Azerbaijan could be trusted to keep Safarov imprisoned. He was bundled onto the next flight out and Hungary cleaned its hands of all responsibility.

Once down on Azerbaijani soil, the real intent was finally revealed to the clueless Hungarian government when President Ilham Aliyev swiftly pardoned him, promoted him to a Major, gave him a flat and awarded him backdated pay. He was cheered on a hero on the streets of Baku.

It is impossible to believe that Hungary’s actions were purely naivety by its politicians as is implicitly suggested by both countries. Whilst the exact nature of the discussions that led to this release are unknown, it is patently clear that a deal was brokered that valued money above human life. There have been suggestions in respected press outlets that Hungary was offered a much-needed loan on favourable terms as a sweetener, and this is easy to believe given both countries’ situations.

Most people are acquainted with Azerbaijan’s ways of working: a hereditary dictatorship with no human rights to speak of that uses its oil wealth, friendliness with Turkey and façade of democracy to wrangle its way into the West. What people did not expect was for an EU member country bound by its laws to bow down so deeply to such pressure, or to sell out on its obligations and conscience so easily.

Armenians across the world, most notably in Armenia itself, have demonstrated to show their utter disgust at its actions. Indeed, British Armenians in London held a protest outside the Hungarian embassy a few days after the decision. Even non-state actors such as NATO – who are usually quiet on all Armenia-related news – issued a statement condemning both Hungary and Azerbaijan. Such a rare condemnation of one of the USA and EU’s most favoured Middle Eastern nations should be applauded, but more importantly, it should be held up high by all Armenians as an example of who we are up against – a neighbour with no morals or standards that advertises itself as the pinnacle of regional democracy; a neighbour that treats murderers better than ordinary citizens; a neighbour that cuddles up to the West and then promptly spits in its face.

Azerbaijan truly practices one of the most disgusting examples of state-sanctioned hypocrisy. Now is the time for Armenians to show to the world just what the dark side of that country really looks like.

— Ruben Arakelyan

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