Following Hungary's release of an Azerbaijani army officer convicted of murdering an Armenian soldier, Armenia has severed diplomatic ties with the Central European country. Lt. Ramil Safarov, who was serving life in prison, confessed to killing 26-year-old Lt. Gurgen Margaryan when both were in Hungary for a 2004 NATO language course.
The Hungarian government released Safarov after being informed by the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan that his sentence, which was life in prison, would continue to be enforced.
However, EurasiaNet's Tamada Tales blog reports that Safarov, who beheaded Markarian with an axe while he was sleeping, wasn't exactly treated like a man who had committed murder:
Extradited from Hungary, Lt. Safarov is not only walking freely, but also taking bows in front of the cameras.
Upon arrival in Baku, he spoke of his sufferings “in a prison in a foreign land” and thanked Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for pardoning him.
The release caused fury to erupt in Armenia, where tomatoes were pelted at the Hungarian Consult as a crowd shouted “Shame, Shame!” in Armenian:
Meanwhile images emerged of Safarov as he surfaced in Azerbaijan:
@vgratian: This is sick:
#RamilSafarov honored in Azerbaijan
And on an unofficial Facebook page, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's cover photo was changed to an image of Safarov soon after:
@Haroutoin: Azeris openly celebrating the pardon of ax murderer Safarov shakes my faith in humanity.
#Armenia #Azerbaijan #Hungary
@KevorkO: The release of a racist killer is always disgusting.
#Armenia #Azerbaijan #Hungary #Safarov
#Azerbaijan has just sparked my facepalm of the year…
After a press release was posted to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan's website followed the release, where he warned “we will not tolerate that and have to decide on our future steps,” Armenia severed ties with Hungary.
Hungary claimed the Azerbaijani government had lied to them about ensuring Safarov's sentence would be upheld:
#Hungary: “ #Azerbaijan lied to us” – BBC Azeri http://www.bbc.co.uk/azeri/azerbaijan/2012/08/120831_safarov_hungary.shtml … (It's in Azeri thougth) #SouthCaucasus #Azerbaijan #Armenia
#Hungary? #Azerbaijan lied to you?Pathetic. Is this what passes as an independent judiciary in an EU member state? #Safarov #Armenia
The row adds new fuel to the nationalistic fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who are still essentially at war in a “frozen conflict” over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region, while diminishing hope that the two countries can ever reach any type of agreement.
The release and subsequent discussion of the murder managed to conjure up past crimes both countries have committed against each other and rhetoric on what the future holds for the South Caucasus, an area ruled more by the past than anything else.
@TurallM: @GoldenTent how come you so sure it was a crime? Yes, if it was me and a guy would try to abase my flag and abused my nation I would do same
@arzugeybulla @VusalAlisoy i know we are at war. i know innocent people die. but we must reconcile. atrocities bring only more atrocities
Though some of the exchanges on Twitter were polarizing, many engaged in discussion that seemed to unite both sides in agreement:
@arzugeybulla @VusalAlisoy unfortunately we have same people against peace on both sides, and thats why people like me will be called prostitute & traitor
@Taniel_Shant @arzugeybulla saddened to hear that, stay strong, hate cannot penetrate truth
@PhilGamaghelyan @arzugeybulla you & a few others today helped everyone to see the human face of Azerbaijan, which is tarnished by the likes of @Cerrard113