An unremorseful axe-murderer was freed and rewarded last Friday after the Azerbaijani government secured military officer Ramil Safarov’s extradition – and de facto release – from Hungary.
Safarov had been serving a life sentence in Hungary for axing – with 16 blows – to death his sleeping Armenian colleague, Gurgen Margaryan, at a 2004 NATO Partnership for Peace course. He then attempted to kill the other Armenian participant, but found a locked door. Safarov proudly admitted to the murder and was convicted to life by a Hungarian court.
While swift to imprison peaceful domestic dissidents, the authoritarian regime of Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, spared no effort to release the criminal, by reportedly showering Hungary with an as much as $3.8 billion loan offer, enabled by the Caspian’s energy riches.
On his arrival in Baku, Safarov was pardoned, promoted to Major, given back pay for the eight years he had spent in prison and awarded a house, suggesting that Margaryan’s brutal murder based on his ethnicity was, retroactively, a state-sponsored hate crime.
(Previously, Azerbaijan has denied – as opposed to embracing – hate crimes against Armenians, such as the December 2005 deliberate and complete destruction of the world’s largest medieval cemetery, committed by over a 100 uniformed Azerbaijanis.)
By releasing Safarov, Azerbaijan’s government has signaled that ethnically-motivated violence is not only acceptable, but also laudable.
Celebrating a hate crime is anything but a path to peace for Azerbaijanis and Armenians, who fought a war over Nagorno-Karbakh in the 1990s and are yet to resolve the conflict.