- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
April 30, 2004

Margaryan Killing: Preliminary inquiry nears its end

The lawyer for the family of Gurgen Margaryan has been in Budapest for consultations on the case against the Azerbaijani officer accused of murdering him.
Nazeli Vardanyan and Tigran Janoyan

Nazeli Vardanyan, a member of the Armenian International Lawyers Union, met with her Hungarian colleague Gabriela Gaspar to familiarize herself with details of the preliminary investigation.

Vardanyan is representing the interests of the legal successors of Margaryan, the Armenian officer violently murdered on February 19 while attending a NATO Partnership for Peace training program in Budapest. She also represents a second Armenian officer, Hayk Makuchyan, who is recognized as a victim in the case.

The preliminary inquiry is expected to be completed within two to three weeks. Senior Lieutenant Ramil Sarafov, one of two Azerbaijani officers attending the same NATO program, is accused of hacking Margaryan to death with an axe while he slept and of attempting to murder Makuchyan. The soldiers were attending NATO’s “Partners for Peace” conference.

Vardanyan received her legal education in Yerevan and completed postgraduate study at the Institute of State and Law Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow . She is also a graduate of the American University of Armenia. An international law specialist, Vardanyan speaks English and German.

Tigran Janoyan, head of the union, which is providing legal support to Vardanyan, states that Sarafov allegedly murdered Margaryan then tried to break into Makuchyan’s room. The preliminary investigation has recorded that marks from a sharp-edged instrument were found around the door latch and that the Azeri officer called to Makuchyan to come out of his room.

“Both of them were recognized as victims and the most important is that the crime was directed only against Armenian citizens. The national factor, the fact of being Armenian, was the motive for the crime,” says Janoyan.

Immediately after the incident, Azerbaijani authorities sought to classify it as a simple dispute. Janoyan says: “So far, the investigation hasn’t managed to collect any information showing there to have been a conflict between the Azeri and Armenian officers or demonstration of antipathy.”

The attorney believes that the Azeri side is seeking to cloak a criminal act in the imagery of national heroism by developing a hypothesis of revenge for deaths in Khojalu during the war in Nagorno Karabakh.

“This contradiction is also clear to Hungarian authorities, particularly to the body in charge of the preliminary investigation. If they try to turn the trial into a political show, I think we will also be ready to present the reality of the Khojalu events,” says Janoyan, underlining that at present the Armenian side has no desire to leave the legal field.

He says the investigation found that “the axe recognized as the weapon was purchased in advance, about two weeks before the incident in Budapest”.

According to a statement from the second Azeri officer who attended the NATO meeting, Safarov “purchased the axe as a souvenir for his father”. Janoyan questions whether the huge instrument – 65 centimeters long, with a blade measuring 17 by 12 – was really “the best souvenir to bring from Hungary to the Southern Caucasus”.

He argues: “Safarov planned cruel crimes against Armenian officers. He purchased the crime instrument, chose a residential section of the educational building and step by step committed the crime. The murder of the second Armenian officer didn’t take place as a result of circumstances over which the criminal couldn't establish control.”

The scene of the crime has been thoroughly examined. Traces of blood allegedly left by the criminal while searching for Makuchyan’s room were registered.

Hungarian law provides 10 to 15 years or life imprisonment for murder. The court has yet to decide whether the trial will be public. If he is convicted, the possibility of Sarafov being transferred to his homeland to serve his sentence is not excluded.

“Azerbaijan and Hungary have signed a convention on extradition of convicted persons, although it doesn't require mandatory extradition. The Hungarian side must decide whether to extradite him or not,” says Vardanyan. “ Hungary is preparing to join the European Union on May 1 and I don't think there will be any pressure on the court because they want to prove to the world that they are ready to be a member of this structure. We are not passive, in our turn, to allow pressure to be exerted.”

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