Sen. Kerry ‘Shocked and Appalled’ at Release of Azeri Axe Murderer Safarov


WASHINGTON — Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) last week condemned President Ilham Aliyev’s release of Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani army lieutenant who was convicted of brutally axing to death Armenian soldier Gurgen Markarian in his sleep, during a 2004 NATO English-language training course.

“I am shocked and appalled that Azerbaijan not only welcomed Safarov home, but pardoned, promoted and treated him as a hero,” noted Kerry, in a statement. “This needlessly provocative act endangers the fragile peace between these countries and damages the government of Azerbaijan’s credibility.”

Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region Executive Director Michelle Hagopian welcomed Kerry’s statement, noting “We join with Armenian Americans from throughout the Commonwealth in welcoming Senator Kerry’s condemnation of Azerbaijan’s pardon of convicted axe-murderer Ramil Safarov. We thank the senator for his principled stand against this injustice, and urge him and his legislative colleagues, in the interest of peace, to act now to cut off all US military aid, sales or transfers to Azerbaijan.”

Kerry echoes statements issued by a number of US representatives this week decrying Azerbaijan’s release and subsequent glorification of Safarov.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted that he is “deeply disturbed by the president of Azerbaijan’s decision to pardon Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani military lieutenant who gruesomely murdered Armenian Lt. Gurgen Markarian while the two soldiers were participating in the 2004 NATO Partnership for Peace program in Hungary. It is an appalling demonstration of the Azerbaijani government’s continued refusal to reconcile with Armenia and its unwillingness to uphold the rule of law.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) called Safarov’s release “contemptible,” noting, “that Safarov in a premeditated fashion killed Markarian at a NATO Partnership for Peace event underscores the cynical brutality of his act. For the Hungarian government to have demonstrated leniency in this matter is of grave concern… The Azerbaijani government’s decision to free Safarov is contemptible and a serious blow to hopes for Armenian-Azerbaijani peace.”

Central California Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) told The Fresno Bee that “This injustice of international law committed by the government of Azerbaijan is an outrage, plain and simple.” In a longer statement issued to his constituents, he noted that “We in the United States stand firm with our friends in Armenia during these

trying times because of our steadfast commitment to justice, peace and mutual respect. The actions of the Azeri government stand in stark contrast to these values and underline the need for the US government to strongly support Armenia and its people.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), one of two members of Congress of Armenian origin, called for the immediate reincarceration of Safarov. “Safarov’s release dangerously undermines the rule of law and peace throughout the region. The Azerbaijani government should immediately reverse its decision to pardon Safarov.”

Earlier, Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution architect Adam Schiff (D-CA) commented that “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 Armenian Assembly of America released a statement similarly commending the administration and members of Congress for their initial statements in reaction to the news.

The National Security Council issued a statement last Friday highlighting President Barack 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.”

The Assembly in a statement said its leadership 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.

Rep. 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.”

“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 Karabagh and Armenia,” added Ardouny.