A crowd of about 2,000 gathered in front of the parliament building on Tuesday to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over his government’s sanctioning the repatriation of Azeri officer Ramil Sahib Safarov last Friday.
Safarov was serving a 30-year sentence for the premeditated murder in 2004 of a 26-year-old Armenian soldier, Gurgen Margaryan. Both were in Budapest for English classes under NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme. Safarov, who killed Margaryan with an axe as he slept, was feted as a national hero and pardoned by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev upon his return to Baku.
Tension at embassies
Hungarian police were placed on alert to prevent possible attacks on the Azeri Embassy in Eötvös utca in District VI, which said it had received information of a threat from Armenian terrorists. Pro-Armenian groups also protested outside Hungarian embassies in Kiev, Sofia and Oslo.
Call for probe
Several opposition politicians joined the protest on Kossuth tér (the square before parliament), which was organised by the anti-government civil movement Milla (whose roots lie in last year’s protests against restrictive media laws). Among those who took part were Gergely Karácsony of the green-liberal LMP, Socialist politicians Zoltán Szabó and László Kovács, and Democratic Coalition deputy chairman Csaba Molnár.
Speaking at the event the president of Hungary’s minority Armenian Council, Sevan Serkisian, said the 1983 Strasbourg treaty under which Safarov was transferred to Azerbaijan had been misused. Serkisian called for Orbán to launch an investigation into the case. He also accused the far-right party Jobbik – whose leader Gábor Vona had declared, despite criticising Safarov’s release, that “Hungary must be one of the most important political partners of Azerbaijan” – of being in the pay of the oil-rich Caucasian nation.
Appearing on Duna TV on Tuesday evening, Foreign Ministry state secretary Zsolt Németh restated the government’s line that it had received a written guarantee Safarov would serve the remainder of his sentence in Azerbaijan (a contention that opposition politicians have dismissed, see page 5). “The Hungarian government did not reckon on the Azeri side breaking its promise,” Németh said. The European Union was not questioning Hungary’s good faith in the matter, he said. “That the two countries are building economic cooperation on the basis of the extradition is unmitigated slander,” Németh added.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan urged his countrymen, angered by the release of Safarov, to stop burning Hungarian flags, as some had done outside Hungary’s mission in the country (pictured left). “I would like to address our society, specifically the youth, and ask them not to burn the flag of Hungary because the flag of Hungary is not the flag of Hungary’s party in power,” Sargsyan was quoted as saying by Armenian online media.
“Hungary’s flag is not the symbol of Hungary’s prime minister,” he said. “We have had very good relations with the Hungarians for hundreds of years. And the inhuman act by one person or one party… or government should not be grounds for us to become enemies with the Hungarians.”