By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian and other senior Armenian officials told a visiting senior Hungarian diplomat Tuesday that they expect the toughest possible punishment for an Azerbaijani military officer who brutally murdered an Armenian counterpart in Budapest last month.
Hungary’s new Moscow-based ambassador to Armenia, Ferenc Kontra, was in Yerevan to present his credentials to Kocharian and discuss ways of boosting relations between the two countries. The violent death of Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian featured large during his meetings.
Kocharian was quoted by his press office as expressing hope that Hungarian law-enforcement authorities “will display the necessary consistency and the perpetrator will be punished with all the strictness of the law.” Kontra heard similar wishes from Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
“During all of those meetings I expressed condolences to the country’s leadership, the Armenian people and the family of the dead officer,” the envoy told RFE/RL. “I expressed regret that we failed to save the young officer’s life.”
Kontra said that a criminal investigation conducted by the Hungarian police is drawing to a close and that the detained attacker, Lieutenant Ramil Safarov, will be put on trial “soon.” “There is no doubt that this was a premeditated murder,” he said. “That person has confessed preparing for it. So all circumstances [of the crime] are well known, and he will be held accountable under Hungarian law.”
Markarian, 26, was reportedly hacked to death by Safarov while he slept in his Budapest dormitory early on February 19. Both men were attending an English-language course at Hungary’s main military academy as part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.
According to some leaders of Hungary’s Armenian community, Safarov has told the investigators that he attacked the Armenian officer with an axe and a knife to avenge the deaths of fellow villagers during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. A former resident of Azerbaijan’s Jebrail district south of Nagorno-Karabakh, Safarov is said to have fled the area with his family when it was captured by Armenian forces in 1993.
The Azerbaijani government is expected to use this fact for Safarov’s defense. An Azerbaijani lawyer who visited Safarov last week said on Monday that the suspect is “very well, if one may say so.” “His morale is very high,” Adil Ismailov told the Azerbaijani ANS television. He said President Ilham Aliev is personally involved in a search for “a positive solution to this issue.”
Official Baku reportedly hopes that the Hungarian authorities will repatriate Safarov some time after his likely imprisonment. Kontra did not rule out such possibility. “Assuming that a person is sentenced to life imprisonment, it is very difficult to say what will happen in 20 or 25 years’ time,” he said. “I can not forecast anything. What I know is that the verdict will be handed down by an independent Hungarian court and he must stay in a Hungarian prison.”
“Naturally, this tragic death will in no way reflect on our bilateral relations. It could have happened anywhere else,” the envoy added.
Kocharian’s office said the Armenian president and Kontra agreed that the two ex-Communist countries should increase their modest bilateral trade. At present it largely amounts to exports of Hungarian pharmaceutical products to Armenia. Incidentally, the owner of an Armenian company that imports them, Artashes Blurtsian, also serves as Hungary’s honorary consul in Yerevan.
“Of course, there is economic cooperation between Armenia and Hungary, but it lags far behind our potential and desires,” Kontra said. He said Hungary’s upcoming accession to the European Union and the existence of a “very respected” Hungarian-Armenian community should facilitate closer commercial ties.
(Photolur photo: Ferenc Kontra.)