OTTAWA—Canadian-Armenian youth organizations across the country jointly gathered in Ottawa to hold demonstrations at the Hungarian and Azerbaijani Embassies, protesting the release, pardoning and promotion of Azerbaijani axe-murderer, Ramil Safarov. The demonstration began at the Hungarian Embassy, after which, demonstrators marched to the Azerbaijani embassy, where they continued their protest.
In early 2004, Hungary hosted NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in Budapest, which offered English language courses to military personnel from different countries. On the evening of February 19, 2004, Safarov, a participant from Azerbaijan, intruded into Armenian participant Gurgen Margaryan’s dormitory while Margaryan was asleep, and proceeded to hack Margaryan’s face with an axe multiple times, nearly decapitating him. The Government of Azerbaijan did not condemn Safarov’s acts and instead encouraged local media agencies to praise him as a national hero. Azerbaijan’s National-Democratic Party even awarded Safarov with the title of ‘‘Man of the Year 2005’’ for the act of killing an Armenian.
On April 13, 2006, a Hungarian court sentenced Safarov to life imprisonment without possibility of a pardon until 2036. The judge, Andras Vaskuti, cited the premeditated nature and brutality of the crime as well as the fact that Safarov showed no remorse for his deeds as the reasons for the sentence. On February 22, 2007, a Hungarian court upheld the ruling following an appeal filed by Safarov’s lawyer.
On August 31, the Hungarian government decided to extradite Safarov to Azerbaijan on the condition that he continued to serve the remainder of his life sentence there. However, upon his arrival in Baku, Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, immediately issued an official pardon and freed Safarov. Furthermore, he was promoted to the rank of major, given an apartment and paid all salary lost during his imprisonment.
Representatives from the various Canadian youth organizations spoke out about the dangerous precedent Hungary and Azerbaijan have set by extraditing and pardoning a convicted murderer. Demonstrators also condemned the lionizing of Safarov in Azerbaijan and demanded that Azerbaijan put an end to its racist, anti-Armenian and belligerent rhetoric. At the Hungarian Embassy, Daron Keskinian, a member of the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada (AYF Canada) Central Executive, outlined the demands of the participants. “We urge the international community to join us in demanding an apology from the Hungarian Government and asking for the rescission of their immoral decision on extradition”, said Keskinian. Alek Ohanian, member of Armen Karo Student Association, also read a letter addressed to the Mr. László Pordány, Ambassador of Hungary to Canada, which was later delivered to embassy officials.
At the Azerbaijani embassy, Karnig Hasserjian, also a member of the AYF Canada Central Executive, spoke about the implications of Safarov’s pardon regarding the Nagarno-Karabakh conflict. “The pardoning of Safarov is further evidence that Azerbaijan is not negotiating in good faith, and that it intends on enticing violence and hatred in an eventual military invasion of Karabakh.”
Canadian-Armenians condemn the actions of both the governments of Hungary and Azerbaijan, and urge the international community to demand an apology from the Hungarian Government, and ask for the retraction of their immoral decision to extradite Safarov. Furthermore, Canadian-Armenians demand a reversal of the pardon.