Corruption was a key factor behind Hungary’s decision to extradite the Azerbaijani axe-murderer of Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian to Azerbaijan and thus enable his triumphant release in Baku, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian suggested on Tuesday.
Nalbandian dismissed the Hungarian government’s claims that it repatriated Safarov after receiving official Azerbaijani assurances that the military officer will serve the rest of his life sentence in an Azerbaijani prison.
“How could a country which is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO pretend trusting in Azerbaijan and take such a dubious step?” he told a news conference in Yerevan.
“Having completely plunged their own country into corruption, the Azerbaijani authorities have been trying to export that vice to other countries and elevate it to the level of inter-state relations,” he said. “There have been numerous reports about this in the international media in recent years. This is a serious warning to those countries and politicians that are tempted to cut such deals.”
Nalbandian did not specify corrupt practices which Yerevan believes were at the root of the “Azerbaijani-Hungarian deal” on Safarov.
The Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Public Administration defended the extradition on Friday, saying that it stemmed from the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to which both Azerbaijan and Hungary are signatories. The ministry said it had received written guarantees from the Azerbaijan government that Safarov’s life sentence “will not be modified but will immediately be continued to be enforced.”
That explanation was dismissed not only by Yerevan but also Hungary’s leading opposition forces, however.
Ferenc Gyurcsany, the former Hungarian prime minister now leading the opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) party, reportedly said on Monday that the Azerbaijani government requested Safarov’s extradition during his 2004-2009 tenure. He said his government turned down the request because it was sure that the officer convicted of murdering Markarian in Budapest in 2004 would be set free on his return home.
According to “The Budapest Times” newspaper, Gyurcsany said the current Hungarian government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban knew that Safarov will be pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev immediately after arriving in Baku. He went on to accuse the government of “selling the country’s honor for 30 pieces of silver.”
Gyurcsany’s deputy, Csaba Molnar, likewise alleged that Orban “preferred to beg money from the devil,” instead of seeking loan deals with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, reported “The Budapest Times.”
The opposition leaders appeared to allude to recent news reports that oil-rich Azerbaijan could lend Orban’s cash-strapped government 2-3 billion euros by buying specially-issued Hungarian bonds. A spokesman for Orban denied on Sunday any connection between Safarov’s release and the possible bond sale.