So I Pardoned an Axe Murderer
September 10, 2012 9:12 PM   Subscribe

In 2004, Gurgen Margaryan (from Armenia) and Ramil Safarov (from Azerbaijan) were in Budapest attending a NATO-sponsored language training. While Margaryan was sleeping, Safarov hacked him to death with an axe. Safarov, who never denied his culpability and stated he only committed the crime because Margaryan was Armenian, was sentenced to life in prison in 2006.

Late last month, the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orban extradited Safarov to Azerbaijan with the understanding that he would continue his sentence there. When Safarov arrived in Baku he was promptly pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev and given a hero's welcome.

The Armenian government is understandably furious and has broken off diplomatic relations with Hungary. Overwhelmed by bad press, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry's internal research department suggested this response: "Let's Dare to Be Stupid!". To wit, that no one in the Foreign Ministry had any expertise in the Caucasus region and didn't bother to get any assurances from the Azeris.

The decision to extradite Safarov was being considered in tandem with negotiations for the Azeris to purchase 2-3 billion Euros'-worth of Hungarian government bonds. The purchase did not go through, however, because the relevant Azeri government agency could not purchase such a large amount of junk bonds.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long-standing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh, which began in 1988 and ended in a ceasefire in 1994. During the conflict approximately 800,000 Azeris from Armenia and Karabakh and 230,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan were displaced. Safarov's pardon and the possibility it raises for future conflict in the region has been criticized by NATO, the United States, and others.

Hungarian Spectrum has been all over this, as you'll see from the links. The Contrarian Hungarian has more on the blowback against Hungary here and here.

On Viktor Orban and Hungary--previously and previouslier.
posted by orrnyereg (31 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy crap, that's insane. Why is Metafilter the first place I've heard this?
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:30 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Love the post title.

So this is what the start of a minor war might look like, yeah?
posted by figurant at 9:33 PM on September 10, 2012


Something is rotten in the states of Azerbaijan and Hungary.

(Denmark, you're clean.)
posted by Sleeper at 9:36 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


An actual comment made to me by an Armenian while I was escaping the 2008 Georgia/Russia war: "It's a shame that Georgia and Russia fight, they are both Orthodox countries. We should all join together and invade Azerbaijan, they are not even Christian."
posted by jaduncan at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Giving Safarov a promotion is terrifyingly brazen. Up until that point, there's a tiny sliver of plausible deniability that Azerbaijan can just claim they're taking care of a mentally ill soldier who did a terrible thing. Making him a major for no reason beyond that he murdered a guy in his sleep is really just flipping the bird at one and all. Even Libya was more circumspect with al-Megrahi, and there's at least a case to be made that he wasn't guilty at all.
posted by Copronymus at 9:42 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remind me who won Eurovision this year.
posted by Nomyte at 9:48 PM on September 10, 2012


Sleeper: "(Denmark, you're clean.)"

I know some Danish people, and I can categorically deny this.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:56 PM on September 10, 2012


Making him a major for no reason beyond that he murdered a guy in his sleep is really just flipping the bird at one and all.

The Azeri leadership are getting cheap domestic popularity. The NDP (Azeri nationalist party) made him their 2005 man of the year way before he was sent back. It's clear that the right wing loved him and it makes it somewhat difficult for Orban to say that this wasn't a predictable outcome.

I see Orban is bringing the same competence and subtlety to international affairs that has been his mark domestically[1] though; even the most stupid corrupt official normally waits for the money to actually clear before handing over the goods.

[1] See the 2011 constitutional changes, for example.
posted by jaduncan at 9:59 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you for posting this so well, orrnyereg. The state of Hungary these days would be funny if it wasn't so sad. The more the rest of the world knows about it the better.
posted by vac2003 at 10:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Humans are bloodthirsty apes with investment portfolios.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Stavros, so true.

We are human, but we are not humane.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:08 PM on September 10, 2012


The Caucasus are like the Balkans except the world didn't bother paying attention.

Armies fight and countries have disagreements, but I don't understand this at all. I meet my country's "enemies" all the time at international conferences, and mostly we go for beers and talk about how dumb our respective governments are. This kind of fanatical nationalism is dangerous, and it's going to bite the Azeris sooner or later.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:28 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the articles linked is my own, so I'm glad someone else posted it.

I do want to point out, as someone quite involved with this, that there is the beginning of a movement amongst Azerbaijanis to argue AGAINST the Safarov hero worship.

This story isn't as simple as this (pretty well done) FPP makes it out to be. I'm reading this stuff non-stop in the local languages blowing up my Facebook and Twitter and things are changing by the hour.
posted by k8t at 11:32 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


And FWIW, in the 15 years I've been involved in this region, this year is the most worried I've been about war resuming.
posted by k8t at 11:33 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just can't comprehend hating somebody for being from a place.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The decision to extradite Safarov was being considered in tandem with negotiations for the Azeris to purchase 2-3 billion Euros'-worth of Hungarian government bonds. The purchase did not go through, however, because the relevant Azeri government agency could not purchase such a large amount of junk bonds.

[Facepalm]

It seems that the Azeris knew the Rules of the Con. Viktor Orban, not so much. "Dare to be Stupid!", indeed...
posted by Skeptic at 3:14 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Giving Safarov a promotion is terrifyingly brazen. Up until that point, there's a tiny sliver of plausible deniability that Azerbaijan can just claim they're taking care of a mentally ill soldier who did a terrible thing. Making him a major for no reason beyond that he murdered a guy in his sleep is really just flipping the bird at one and all.

I'm not justifying this, but there is a trend towards militaries promoting people who are prisoners-of-war, etc. Apparently, the guy in his confession said that he did his duty as a soldier whose job was to kill Armenians. By pardoning him, the president was essentially accepting that, saying that he did this as part of a war with Armenia. Thus, paying him his back pay and promoting him for the promotions he missed would be normal.

Still really messed up, but the promotions/back pay is not the crazy part.
posted by corb at 4:57 AM on September 11, 2012


To quote from his confession, (admittedly translated from Hungarian to Russian and then to English, so it explains the issues)
I’m being a soldier since 14 years now, but I cannot give an answer whether I would kill if I would be a civil person. I didn’t wondering on the question whether I would kill Armenians if I would be a civil. My job is to kill all, because until they live we will suffer. This conflict is not a new one, goes back to 100-200 years.
posted by corb at 5:01 AM on September 11, 2012


the guy in his confession said that he did his duty as a soldier whose job was to kill Armenians. By pardoning him, the president was essentially accepting that, saying that he did this as part of a war with Armenia. Thus, paying him his back pay and promoting him for the promotions he missed would be normal.

"He gives 110%, even outside of the conventional workplace."
posted by jaduncan at 5:07 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've long thought that there was a non-negligible chance that Viktor Orban would trigger a vicious war. I just never expected that it would be in the Caucasus.
posted by Skeptic at 5:10 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Remind me who won Eurovision this year.

Sweden. Azerbaijan won last year.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:39 AM on September 11, 2012


Dare to be Stupid seems to be the Hungarian national policy in a lot of realms nowadays.,
posted by ocschwar at 5:48 AM on September 11, 2012



I'm not justifying this, but there is a trend towards militaries promoting people who are prisoners-of-war, etc. Apparently, the guy in his confession said that he did his duty as a soldier whose job was to kill Armenians. By pardoning him, the president was essentially accepting that, saying that he did this as part of a war with Armenia.


Which is a brazen slap in the face to NATO, that alliance that forced the Greeks and Turks to play nice.
posted by ocschwar at 5:55 AM on September 11, 2012


Which is a brazen slap in the face to NATO, that alliance that forced the Greeks and Turks to play nice.

Being nice to NATO is more a Georgian obsession as an attempt to counterbalance Russia. I am constantly surprised by the Georgian willingness to believe that the Germans and French won't veto an obligation that risks a NATO-Russia conflict to stand up for 5 million non-Europeans, but none the less Misha keeps trying to get in.

The Azeris are in a we-both-hate-the-Armenians formal defence alliance with the Turks, and the Armenians are hooked up with the Russians. Nobody to the south of Georgia gives a shit about NATO, and it's not entirely clear why they should.
posted by jaduncan at 6:07 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That confession was translated by Armenians and is hosted on a Nagorno Karabakh site. I'm not confident that it is authentic.
posted by k8t at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2012


If we gave Armenia one nuclear bomb where would they use it?
posted by incandissonance at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2012


.
posted by zaelic at 3:59 PM on September 11, 2012


These countries are essentially run by a mafia, are they not? Thugs of little subtlety.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:21 PM on September 11, 2012


Yeah, these countries are run by a few wealthy people who benefit greatly from the frozen conflict as to distract the populations from noticing that their leaders are stealing from them.
posted by k8t at 4:36 PM on September 11, 2012


If you gave the Armenian government a nuclear bomb, they'd probably sell it so that they could buy more expensive cars, gaudy statues, and McMansions.
posted by k8t at 4:38 PM on September 11, 2012


Holy crap I think I got whiplash when I reached the 'more inside'.
posted by jacalata at 6:55 PM on September 11, 2012


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