Sen. Kerry ‘Shocked and Appalled’ by Safarov Pardon

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.)

WASHINGTON—On Sept. 5, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) condemned President Ilham Aliyev’s release of Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani army lieutenant who was convicted of brutally axing to death Armenian soldier Gurgen Margaryan 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 Chairman Kerry, in a statement issued earlier today. “This needlessly provocative act endangers the fragile peace between these countries and damages the government of Azerbaijan’s credibility.”

ANCA Eastern Region Executive Director Michelle Hagopian welcomed Chairman 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 U.S. military aid, sales, or transfers to Azerbaijan.”

Sen. Kerry echoes statements issued by a number of U.S. Representative this week decrying Azerbaijan’s release and subsequent glorification of Safarov.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) 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 lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan 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-Calif.) called Safarov’s release “contemptible,” noting, “that Safarov in a premeditated fashion killed Margaryan 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 Congressman Jim Costa (D-Calif.) told The Fresno Bee on Sept. 5 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 U.S. government to strongly support Armenia and its people.”

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

Earlier, Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution architect Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) 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 ANCA reported last week on statements issued by Congressional Armenian Caucus co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and senior House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Brad Sherman’s condemnation of the Safarov release. White House and State Department condemnation was swift last week, following thousands of calls and emails from Armenian Americans across the U.S. expressing outrage. The White House statement, issued in the name of National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor, underscores the President’s view that, “This action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation.” Vietor goes on to note that “The United States is also requesting an explanation from Hungary regarding its decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan.”

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