Following the extradition and pardoning of the Azeri officer, Lt. Ramil Safarov, on August 31, 2012, there have been ongoing debates about the extent to which his case could be comparable to the one of the convicted terrorist Varoujan Garabedian (Karapetyan, Garapetyan, Garbidjian). This article will focus on the differences, rather than similarities between the two. There are many factors that make them different indeed, to name just nineteen:
1) While it is true that every single human life is invaluable and the loss of any life is a tragedy for human race, it is, however, still appropriate to remind that Lt. Ramil Safarov killed one person and wounded no one, whereas Varoujan Garabedian killed eight people and wounded fifty-five. This alone makes the latter at least for eight times more an evil than the former.
2) Lt. Ramil Safarov's intention was to kill one more person, Ayk Makuchyan, totaling the number of intended victims to two people. Varoujan Garabedian's intention was to blow-up an entire airplane, causing catastrophic consequences not only for those aboard (absolutely innocent passengers and the crew members) but also to the people and buildings on the ground, not to mention the aircraft itself. It is hard to compare the single homicide on the ground of a personal insult with the plot to blow up the civilian airplane, like the Lockerbie bombing or 9/11 attack?!
3) Lt. Ramil Safarov's victim was a uniformed officer of the enemy army that had committed grave war crimes against the civilian population of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh province and seven other regions (like the acts of genocide in Khojaly, Garadaghly, Gushchular, Malybeyli, Meshali, Agdaban, Baganis-Ayrim, etc.). Varoujan Garabedian's victims were not the military, they were civilians. Among the dead there was at least one woman, Jacqueline Kirschner, whose 19-year-old boy was instantly killed by the blast (http://www.nytimes.com/1983/07/22/world/around-the-world-death-toll-rises-to-7-after-terror-at-orly.html), as well as a little French boy, Francois Luc, as reported by "Ludington Daily News" newspaper (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=balaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dksDAAAAIBAJ&dq=orly%20airport%20asala&pg=3583%2C4850484).
4) Lt. Ramil Safarov and the two Armenian officers knew each other. Personal relations between the Azeri and Armenian classmates were tense. Conversely, Varoujan Garabedian did not know his victims, neither did the people at the crime scene know him. The killing at the airport was completely indiscriminate and impersonal, not targeted at any specific person, thus represented the classical example of a terrorist attack.
5) Lt. Ramil Safarov's motive was personal too - the officers cynically insulted him, his national symbols and the memory of his perished compatriots on many occasions. No victim of Garabedian's did any personal misdoing toward their killer.
6) Lt. Ramil Safarov's family members were killed by the colleagues of Gurgen Margaryan, the Armenian military, in front of his eyes. His native village was burnt and he personally experienced the flight, misery and life of a refugee. On the other hand, no family member was killed in front of Varoujan Garabedian's eyes, who was born in 1954 and never say a war, and the house in his native Kamishli (Syria) remains untouched.
7) After the murder, Lt. Ramil Safarov made no attempt to escape the crime scene. He sat down and waited for the police to arrive, whereas the Armenian terrorists were apprehended as a result of the police investigation and search operation.
8) During the trial, Lt. Ramil Safarov gave full and honest confession, whereas Varoujan Garabedian, who initially confessed to planting the bomb at the airport and paying $65 to a passenger to check the bag for him, later started playing "cat and mouse" games with the investigation and denied his earlier confession.
9) Lt. Ramil Safarov acted alone, he did not receive any orders, nor was he a member of any organization. This made him a murderer-loner. Varoujan Garabedian's action was part of a plot of a terrorist organization. Moreover, during the trial he admitted that he was the head of the French branch of the Armenian terrorist organization ASALA, as reported by "New York Times" (http://www.nytimes.com/1983/07/21/world/paris-says-suspect-confesses-attack.html).
10) No one else was arrested in the context of Lt. Ramil Safarov's case, he did not have accomplices. On the other hand, the French police arrested 51 (!) suspected ASALA militants. At least two of them - Nayir Soner (a 22-year-old electronics specialist, sentenced to 15 years for designing the firing circuits and assembling the bomb for Garabedian) and Ohannes Semerci (sentenced to 10 years for storing explosives and other materials in his flat) - both Turkish citizens of Armenian origin, were Varoujan Garabedian's direct associates who plotted and carried out the terrorist attack together with the latter (see http://books.google.hu/books?id=gqUcV87-KvYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=ermeni+sorunu,+diaspora+ve+Turk+dis+politikasi&hl=ru&sa=X&ei=hPSeUIedLune4QTEiYDYBA&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA, p. 312). Several others, namely Antoine Achkoyan, Ohannes Catanassian, Avedis Catanassian, Bedros Halebian, Nerses Tasci, were sentenced to 2 to 3 years for assisting the above mentioned Nayir Soner or taking part in the attack in one way or another. It is also interesting that the prosecutor asked life sentence for each member of the notorious trio, but the court denied the attenuating circumstances only for the Syrian citizen Garabedian, while accepting such circumstances for the two holders of the Turkish passport (this was partly strange, since the plaintiff successfully crushed the "genocide" argument of the defense, yet the court, probably, took seriously the allegation of "persecution" of ethnic Armenians in the Republic of Turkey, which again could be explained by the huge pressure of the French-Armenian lobby on the legal process).
11) The arrest of Lt. Ramil Safarov did not lead to further acts of violence elsewhere, whereas the Orly bombing produced a chain of bloody consequences: ASALA threatened with military attacks on the French interests around the world if "the French regime continues its method of terror and terrorism against the Armenian people" (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UQ8wAAAAIBAJ&sjid=TAYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6322%2C5160116). Indeed, a few days after the French arrest of 51 Armenian suspects in connection with the Orly bombing, ASALA bombed the Air France office and the French Embassy in Tehran, and threatened more attacks (see: Paul Wilkinson, Armenian Terrorism. The World Today, 1983, Royal Institute of International Affairs).
12) The whole environment around the investigation and the court proceedings in the two countries was different as well. France as a country that hosts one of the biggest Armenian diasporas and is well-known for its strong sympathy and affection toward Armenians can by no means be compared to Hungary with its nearly non-existent Azeri diaspora, no visible moral support to the detainee and the country's complete neutrality in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Armenian propaganda in France was working in full speed and the lobbyist efforts were fully mobilized, which certainly amounted to a great deal of pressure on the investigation, whereas the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Hungary was opened only 7 months after the Budapest incident, by the time when the investigation was completed and forwarded to the court. The Ramil Safarov case had never received any political support from the Baku authorities or longstanding national coverage in Azerbaijani media.
13) During Varoujan Garabedian's prison term, Armenians continued to exert strong pressure on French authorities. 1.5 million Armenians signed under the petition calling France to release the terrorist on the basis of his alleged "innocence" (http://www.azg.am/RU/2003090402). Ironically, it was the terrorist himself who inadvertently dismissed the speculations about his "innocence". In his 01-Nov-2008 interview to "Hayots Ashkharh", he himself refuted the consciously false assertions of the Armenian propaganda, as well as his own twisted testimonies at the court, fully admitting, and even speaking proudly of, his planning and carrying out the Orly terrorist attack (in English: http://www.armworld.am/detail.php?paperid=3029&pageid=96105&lang=_eng; in Russian: http://www.armtown.com/news/ru/has/20081101/302996105/). In contrast, Azerbaijani public and media never stormed Hungarian authorities with an avalanche of petitions, nor did they ever maintained the myth of Lt. Safarov's innocence and/or demanded evidences of his guilt.
14) The verdict of the Orly trial was vehemently criticized by "Hay Baykar", a pro-terrorist Armenian newspaper, edited from 1976 to 1988. The editor-in-chief of this newspaper, Jean-Marc "Ara" Toranian (who was also the leader of the political wing of ASALA from 1976 to 1983), is currently the co-chairman of the Coordination Council of France's Armenian Associations. The people sentenced for concealment of Nayir Soner were all contributors of "Hay Baykar". Meanwhile, no criticism was heard towards the Budapest court's verdict. Armenians rejoiced, Azeris silently accepted the decision. The Armenian criticism of the French court's verdict was also part of the psychological pressure on the authorities.
15) Lt. Ramil Safarov was extradited home where he was pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev in full compliance with the national legislation. Varoujan Garabedian was pardoned, upon President Jacques Chirac's approval, by the tribunal d'application des peines (under the Guigou Act of June 15, 2000, which transferred the power to release for good conduct life-term-sentenced prisoners from the Ministry of Justice to the tribunal d'application des peines) on the condition that he be expelled from France (http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1142396.html). However, this is an insignificant difference. It does not matter at all who pardons a criminal. What really matters is how he/she is welcomed by the government and the society after the release. It is natural when the head of state pardons his own citizen. What is however strange, if not disturbing, when the head of state or the government pardons a foreign terrorist one year before the presidential elections in order to win the votes of the specific group of the electorate! The adoption of the 2001 law on the "Armenian genocide" and the 2012 notorious legislation on the criminalization of its denial are also elements of this dubious electoral strategy.
16) Varoujan Garabedian was deported to the country where he had never been before, had no relatives, did not have its citizenship. This could have been possible only upon the massive behind-the-scene lobbying by the country that had accepted him - Armenia. Garabedian could have easily returned to his native Syria, but Armenia worked harder than Syria to have the foreign citizen pardoned, bring him to the new country where his naturalization was facilitated. What a care for the killer of the eight innocent people! Lt. Safarov's case was totally different - he was extradited to his home country. Did we have any country, other than his native Azerbaijan, that would actively lobby for Lt. Safarov's release and his extradition there? Obviously, no third country would be ready to open its doors to a convicted criminal. In Garabedian's case, Armenia appeared to be such a "hospitable" country.
17) As opposed to Lt. Ramil Safarov, who, contrary to the massive efforts of Armenian propaganda, was never feted as a "hero" upon his return home, his Armenian "colleague", convicted terrorist Varoujan Garabedian WAS fully glorified. On May 4, 2001, ten days after his first ever arrival in Armenia, he was received by the then Prime Minister (!) Andranik Markaryan who embraced the convicted terrorist in his governmental office and expressed joy at Garabedian's release from French jail (http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1142396.html).
The pro-governmental newspaper "Azg" called Varoujan Garabedian a "fighter of the national-liberation struggle", "patriot", "brother", "hero of the Armenian liberation war", while his actions, which resulted in 8 killed and 55 wounded totally innocent people, were called the "manifestation of а chivalrous (?) spirit". The newspaper called Garabedian's pardoning the "fair (yet belated) decision of the French court, which was welcomed by the world". Prominent members of Armenian "intelligentsia", Zori Balayan, Sylva Kaputikian, Sos Sarkisyan, Gevorg Emin, Perch Zeytunyants, Levon Ananyan and others expressed their admiration and support of the convicted terrorist (http://www.azg.am/RU/2003090402).
Conversely, Lt. Ramil Safarov upon his return was never received or embraced by top Azerbaijani officials. Moreover, in his statements President Ilham Aliyev, as well as senior officials of his administration, repeatedly asserted that the Azeri officer did commit a crime. "What Ramil Safarov did was never approved by the authorities of Azerbaijan. He was sentenced by the Hungarian court for his actions, and we think his actions deserved prison term. The authorities of Azerbaijan and public do not consider Ramil Safarov's actions "heroic". We believe, Ramil Safarov should have held responsible for his actions and, indeed, he was prosecuted. However, the inadequate and excessive sentence that he received from the court gave rise to public sympathy towards him", said Ali Hasanov, senior official in President's Administration (http://haqqin.az/blok/2332-ali-gasanov-o-ramile-safarove.html).
18) While it is true that neither in Armenia, nor in Azerbaijan streets, squares, schools, etc. were named after Varoujan Garabedian and Ramil Safarov, respectively, there are, however, quite a few disturbing cases of glorification of war criminals, genocide perpetrators in Armenia, such as Andranik Ozanyan, Stepan Shaumyan, Amazasp Srvantsyan, and many others. Many streets, squares, villages and even towns are named after them, many monuments have been erected. Two Nazi generals, Drastamat Kananyan and Garegin Nzhdeh, are considered to be national heroes in Armenia, and the Yerevan officials have even introduced the "Garegin Nzhdeh" medal.
19) Last, but not the least, in his 2008 interview, Garabedian expressed no regret about what he did and even spoke proudly of him having killed "ten Turks" (in reality, 8 people with two of them being Turks) (in English: http://www.armworld.am/detail.php?paperid=3029&pageid=96105&lang=_eng; in Russian: http://www.armtown.com/news/ru/has/20081101/302996105/). Nothing of any such sort of shameful statements was ever made by Lt. Ramil Safarov any time before or after his release!
Before moving to conclusion, it is necessary to make a few more notes. First, the issue of weapon, since Armenian propaganda seems to be quite obsessed with this matter by constantly underlining the word "axe". True, Lt. Safarov murdered his Armenian classmate with an axe. Garabedian killed 8 and wounded many others with a bomb! Safarov bought his weapon in a store. He did not forge it himself, he did not sharpen it. Garabedian's associate assembled the bomb with his own hands, carefully selecting the parts, thinking of how it will explode, probably, whistling a song in the meantime for his own entertainment. Briefly, what difference, especially for the killed ones, does it make how the murderer claimed their lives - with an axe or a bomb? Would it make difference if Lt. Safarov used Kalashnikov or a samurai sword instead? What makes a bomb better and more humane than an axe? Probably, Armenian officials who fuel the hysteria around the "axe" word hardly provide the answer.
Second, the Armenian side seems to be obsessed also about the fact of Gurgen Margaryan being asleep. By repeating this fact in almost all reports, articles and statements, it maintains the argument that the victim was unable to provide resistance in his self-defense. It is unclear, though, how the very same Armenian authors and politicians would expect the Orly victims to be ready to defend themselves without the knowledge of an ASALA-assembled bomb having being planted and ticking next to their and their children's feet. A truly rhetorical question!
Third, Armenian media cannot easily digest the news of the Azeri officer to have been given an apartment, 8.5-year salary and promoted to the rank of a mayor upon his return home. This is interpreted as making him a "hero" on the official level. However, Armenians conveniently overlook the fact that following his arrest abroad Lt. Safarov has never been dismissed from his job at home. He continued to be formally listed as an army officer, therefore he was legally entitled for his salary no matter where he was. Since by the time of Lt. Safarov's arrest all the army officers continued to receive their monthly wages personally at the cashier's desk and the bank transfer had been introduced only later, obviously the arrested Azeri officer could have not possibly come and received his monthly salaries in person. Therefore, following his arrest, payment of his salary was suspended until his return and opening of a bank account for the salary transfer. This is how his 8.5-year salary was accumulated. To cease receiving salary, he should have been formally fired, which was not the case. Therefore, Yerevan's attempt to present the payment of the Azeri officer's salary as kind of an "award" (the speculations go as far as alleging the payment to be a "reward" for killing an enemy) should be dismissed.
Furthermore, Armenians prefer not to mention that due to their "humanitarian" efforts in the early 1990s little Ramil and his family lost their homes and became the IDPs. Giving the apartment to an IDP-officer is not only natural, but even humane. This is not an isolated case, but rather the state policy. Would the critics expect Baku to take his citizen out of the foreign prison, bring him home and then abandon him in the street right at the exit of the airport? What sense would the whole extradition make, if in Hungary the convict had at least the roof over his head and daily three-times meal? Another point that the Armenian officials prefer not to speak about is the pledge of the mayor of Yerevan, Robert Nazarian, to provide the convicted terrorist Garabedian accommodation and employment.
Finally, it is a gross mistake to interpret the promotion of the Azeri officer to the rank of a mayor as "honoring" him for the crime he has committed. Such interpretations aim to mislead the international community and impose them the wrong opinion. Ramil Safarov was made a mayor for his age. At his age it is quite relevant to be a mayor. Besides, it must not be forgotten that the Azeri officer did not commit any misconduct at home. He committed the crime abroad and paid for it, coming out of the prison clean.
To sum up, all the above differences clearly show that Varoujan Garabedian was a far worse criminal than Lt. Ramil Safarov, and in his home country he received a much warmer welcome than the Azeri officer. Therefore, those who argue that the two cases are incomparable are absolutely right.
While President Ilham Aliyev was widely criticized by the Council of Europe, European Parliament, world leaders, etc., mostly due to the efforts of the Armenia-sponsored lobby organizations and pay-roll western and Russian politicians, not a single word of criticism was ever addressed to the French authorities, nor did the European Parliament rush to adopt a resolution condemning the release of Varoujan Garabedian - a much bloodier murderer! The U.S. Department of State, that requested an explanation from Hungary regarding its decision to transfer Lt. Safarov, failed to request a similar explanation from France about the release of the "Armenian al-Megrahi". This shows yet once again that the whole fuss about the Azeri officer's release is a product of the well-coordinated hysteria by the Armenian state propaganda and lobby organizations, aimed to artificially deteriorate the atmosphere, possibly undermine the negotiations process and send a wrong message to the mediators that Azeri and Armenian communities of the Azerbaijan's Nagorno Karabakh region "can no longer live together" and, therefore, the only solution to the conflict is a "legitimization of the Armenian occupation of the Azerbaijani province".
These attempts as well as Yerevan's invitation to join the Ramil Safarov hysteria must be unequivocally rejected by international community.
Elchin Ahmadov is member of the Azeri Community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan (Shusha).