Margaryan Killing: Preliminary inquiry nears its end

Margaryan Killing: Preliminary inquiry nears its end
30 April 2004

By Zhanna Alexanyan reporter

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, 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

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

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.”