By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
An Armenian army officer attending a NATO training course in Hungary was hacked to death by an Azerbaijani colleague on Thursday in what official Yerevan condemned as a “brutal” act resulting from a long-running “anti-Armenian hysteria” in Azerbaijan.
The Hungarian police said the 26-year-old man, identified by the Armenian military as Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian, was killed in his asleep by a fellow officer from Azerbaijan who intruded into his room early in the morning. They said the suspect was arrested shortly afterwards.
The Hungarian Defense Ministry confirmed the information. “Early in the morning the suspected murderer went into the other person’s room and killed him with an axe,” a ministry spokesman, Peter Matyuc, told RFE/RL from Budapest. “He didn’t show any resistance to police, they got him easily after being alerted by roommates.”
Major Valter Fulop of the Budapest police was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the murder was committed with “unusual cruelty.” “We say 'unusual cruelty' because beside a number of knife wounds on his chest, the victim's head was practically severed from his body,” Fulop said.
The Hungarian authorities said they have launched a criminal investigation and will not comment on possible motives for the killing until it is complete. “The suspected murderer was arrested in the morning and the Hungarian police will conduct an investigation. I hope we will find out the reason why it happened,” Matyuc said.
A NATO spokesman in Brussels also had no comment.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said it was “deeply shocked” by the officer’s death and pledged to do “everything possible and impossible to subject the murderer arrested by the Hungarian authorities to deserved punishment.”
“This crime is the logical consequence of the anti-Armenian hysteria that has been left unreined by the Azeri authorities over the years and of the warmongering militarist propaganda of recent months, which consistently infects all of Azeri society,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement. “It is evident that such state policy has crossed the bounds and officials, representing Azerbaijan abroad, can commit cold-blooded murder.”
“The Ministry expects that the international organizations will appropriately assess this crime and react. At the same time, we demand that the Hungarian authorities punish the perpetrator to the maximum extent of the law.”
Diplomats from the Armenian embassy in Vienna have already arrived in Budapest and are “working with the police” there, the statement added.
Markarian was one of two junior Armenian officers who were attending an English-language course at Hungary’s top military academy within the framework of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that his unidentified comrade also faced an attempt on his life by the same person but that it was foiled. It did not elaborate.
Matyuc said Markarian shared his room with a Hungarian colleague who was the first person to find him dead and alert the police. “According to the police report, there was a witness, the Hungarian roommate of the Armenian officer,” he said, adding that the victim and the attacker lived “next door” from one another.
The Budapest police said the arrested Azerbaijani is 27 years old and referred to him as Ramil S. The Armenian military identified his last name as Safarov.
The slaying, the first of its kind in the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, could further poison the atmosphere in the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks that show no signs of an imminent breakthrough. The Defense Ministry statement portrayed it as another example of “the extreme and fanatical attitudes of the Azerbaijani authorities.” It also reminded of Baku’s apparent unwillingness to allow Armenian soldiers to take part in a PfP military exercise which is due to take place in Azerbaijan this summer.
There was no immediate reaction to the incident from Azerbaijan.