The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) commends the Administration and Members of Congress for their initial statements in reaction to the news that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pardoned Ramil Safarov, who was convicted of brutally murdering an Armenian officer with an axe while the latter was sleeping, reported the Assembly. Both officers were participating in a NATO Partnership for Peace training program in 2004 in Hungary.
The National Security Council issued a statement last Friday highlighting President Obama's deep concerns and noting that "this action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation." The State Department also issued a statement, which read in part: "The United States is extremely troubled by the news that the President of Azerbaijan pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, who returned to Baku today following his transfer from Hungary. Mr. Safarov had been serving a life sentence in a Hungarian jail for murdering Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan during a 2004 NATO training event in Budapest."
The Assembly is troubled by reports that Azerbaijan used its financial resources and Turkish influence to secure the repatriation of Safarov, and moreover that Safarov was reinstated and promoted in the military. The Assembly, like all people of good faith, will work to see this entire dirty affair fully exposed. Safarov committed a cowardly terrorist act by killing a man who was defenseless at sleep, and Aliyev's rewarding of such behavior further exposes Azerbaijan as a threat to regional peace. It also definitely confirms that under no circumstances can the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh return to any form of Azeri rule.
Armenian Caucus Co-Chair, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) condemned the action of Azerbaijan's President in pardoning a convicted murderer: "I am outraged by the reckless actions taken by the government of Azerbaijan in freeing Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani soldier who brutally murdered an unarmed Armenian soldier during a NATO-sponsored training program in Hungary...These are not the actions of a government that is dedicated to justice and peace. Unfortunately, the actions taken by Azerbaijan only further confirm their desire to facilitate and condone violence against Armenia and its people." Congressman Pallone also called on the Azerbaijani government to reverse its decision.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated in part: "The convicted criminal was wrongfully and unjustly pardoned and set free by Azerbaijan's President immediately after arriving in Azerbaijan. I stand by our friend and ally Armenia in her ongoing quest for peace and security for her citizens. I call on the Azeri government to bring this individual to justice instead of freeing a convicted criminal. Baku's actions demonstrate a stubborn refusal to avoid threats against its neighbor."
House Appropriations Committee Member, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) stated: "I was deeply disturbed to learn of the repatriation and subsequent pardoning of Ramil Safarov, who was convicted of killing Armenian Army officer Gurgen Margaryan. Hungary, where Safarov was supposed to be serving a life sentence, and Azerbaijan owe the international community an explanation for this terrible subversion of justice. This is an appalling result in the case of a confessed killer."
"The Assembly condemns Azerbaijan's pardon of Ramil Safarov in the strongest possible terms," stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "We also appreciate the initial statements issued by the Administration, State Department, and Members of Congress. President Ilham Aliyev's actions are consistent with the pattern of rhetoric with which he continues to threaten war against Armenians. This latest escalation only underscores the need to guarantee the safety and security of Armenian people in Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia," added Ardouny.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.