AFP, Associated Press
An Azerbaijani military officer who hacked to death an Armenian lieutenant while attending a NATO-sponsored training course in Budapest was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday.
Judge Andras Vaskuti of the Budapest district court ruled that Ramil Safarov, now 29 and an Azerbaijani army lieutenant, killed Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian, 26, in "premeditated, malicious and an unusually cruel" way by nearly decapitating him with axe in February 2004 while the victim slept in a dormitory used by participants in a NATO Partnership for Peace English language course.
Safarov was also found guilty of planning the murder of another Armenian, which he did not carry out. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years, according to the ruling.
"Compassion and remorse were completely missing from (Safarov's) testimony," Judge Vaskuti said upon announcing the verdict. "During the whole case we waited for him to be at least a bit sorry for the Armenian soldier he killed brutally and for (Markarian's) family."
Safarov's lawyer, Gyorgy Magyar, said they would immediately appeal the verdict, adding that it was yet unclear whether his client would serve his sentence in Hungary or be extradited to Azerbaijan.
A lawyer representing Markarian's family said she was satisfied with the court's decision. "We're happy that the court honestly evaluated all the materials of this case and the brutal intentions ... of the murderer," said Nazeli Vartanian. "This is a good decision for the Hungarian court and for (Armenian) society."
Making his final statement to the court earlier Thursday, Safarov said the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia was at the root of his act, and that the Armenian officer had repeatedly provoked and ridiculed him. He said he was unable to suppress his feelings and his wartime memories due to Markarian's behavior.
"My conscience was clouded as a result of the insults and humiliating and provoking behavior, and I lost all control," Safarov told the court. "It would not be correct to consider it as merely a premeditated act caused by the awakening of revenge and hate upon seeing the Armenians." Safarov denied trying to kill a second Armenian officer.
Armenian-backed forces drove Azerbaijan's army out of the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. A 1994 cease-fire ended the six-year war that killed 30,000 people and left about 1 million homeless and the enclave is now under the control of ethnic Armenians.
(AP-Photolur photo: Safarov Making his final statement to the court.)