Ten years after the brutal murder of Armenian Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) joined with Armenians worldwide in condemning the Azerbaijani government’s pardon, praise and promotion of his confessed but still unrepentant murderer, Lt. Ramil Safarov, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Thanks to the AYF for launching this global initiative, to a worldwide legion of online activists for sending our message of peace and justice across the internet, and, of course, to our friends, Representatives Adam Schiff, Frank Pallone, and David Cicilline, for adding their vital voices to this far-reaching awareness-raising campaign,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
The U.S. Representatives joined a targeted Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram campaign, spearheaded by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) in the United States and Canada, to raise awareness about Safarov’s brutal axe murder of Margaryan, in his sleep, during a NATO sponsored English language peace training program. In August, 2012, Safarov, who had been tried, convicted and imprisoned for his actions in Hungary, was inexplicably extradited back to Azerbaijan, where he was given a hero’s welcome by President Ilham Aliyev, in addition to financial compensation and a promotion in military rank.
In a tweet timed with the AYF international effort, Rep. Schiff stated “Azerbaijani soldier Ramil Safarov should never have been pardoned for butchering an Armenian Army officer. Appalling. #Justice4Margaryan” In an expanded statement shared with the ANCA, Rep. Schiff explained, “Ten years later, we remember Armenian Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, who was hacked to death by Azerbaijani soldier Ramil Safarov while participating in a NATO training exercise in Hungary. Safarov should be in prison, but inexplicably, he was extradited back to Azerbaijan from Hungary in 2012. Instead of serving out his sentence in an Azeri jail, he was pardoned, promoted to Major, given back pay and paraded through the streets of Baku in a disgusting and bloodthirsty welcome home.”
Rep. Cicilline echoed these thoughts in his tweet, noting “On the 10th Anniversary of the brutal death of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, we honor his memory & rededicate ourselves to #Justice4Margaryan.” Upon Aliyev’s release of Safarov in 2012, Rep. Cicilline commented that, “Over the years, serious questions have been raised about whether the Azerbaijani government is truly committed to developing a peaceful, nonviolent relationship with the people of Armenia. Its reckless actions this week do nothing to address these concerns.”
Rep. Pallone was equally adamant about the need for justice for Margaryan’s murder, in this tweet: “10yrs after he was killed by Azerbaijani Lt. Ramil Safarov, we still seek #Justice4Margaryan. Must hold Safarov accountable for his crime.” Following Safarov’s release, Rep. Pallone had stated that Azerbaijan’s actions “only further confirm their desire to facilitate and condone violence against Armenia and its people.”
All tweets honoring Margaryan’s memory can be viewed by searching #Justice4Margaryan in the Twitter feed.
Azerbaijan’s glorification of Safarov in 2012 sparked international outrage, but did not result in his return to prison. A statement issued by the White House on August 31, 2012, stated, “President Obama is deeply concerned by today’s announcement that the President of Azerbaijan has pardoned Ramil Safarov following his return from Hungary. Safarov confessed to the murder of Armenian Army officer Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest in 2004, and was serving a life sentence in Hungary for this brutal crime. We are communicating to Azerbaijani authorities our disappointment about the decision to pardon Safarov. This action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation.” The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs expressed “their deep concern and regret for the damage the pardon and any attempts to glorify the crime have done to the peace process and trust between the sides.” Over dozen U.S. Senate and House members condemned the Azerbaijani action.