Budapest Case - the history of the murder of Gurgen Margaryan
Lt. Gurgen Margaryan
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Murder of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan


Armenian citizen Gurgen Margaryan, 26 years old, was hacked to death while asleep by Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army. Both were participants of an English language training course within the framework of the NATO-sponsored “Partnership for Peace” program held in Budapest, Hungary.

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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY February 19, 2004. Armenian citizen Gurgen Margaryan, 26 years old, was hacked to death while asleep by Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army. Both were participants of an English language training course within the framework of the NATO-sponsored “Partnership for Peace” program held in Budapest, Hungary. The murder occurred at 5 o'clock in the morning, while the victim was asleep.

This is how Gurgen's Hungarian roommate, Kuti Balash , remembers the evening before the murder: “Me and Gurgen were sharing a room at the dormitory. The evening before the murder I was watching a football match between Armenia and Hungary, while Gurgen was sitting at the desk preparing his homework. He just came back from the gym”. Staying with them on the same floor were participants of different nationalities, including Ramil Safarov and another Azerbaijani officer. Balash mentions that there were no conflicts among any members of the group. The subject of international conflicts was discussed only once, during the first day of getting acquainted, but nobody spoke of it afterwards.

On the evening of February 18th Balash had tea and went to bed, as he had fever, while Gurgen Margaryan kept on studying. Around 9:30 p.m. Margaryan went to visit another program participant from Armenia—Hayk Makuchyan—who was staying in another room.

Balash does not remember when Gurgen came back, but early in the morning he felt that someone turned on the light. He thought it was Gurgen returning to the room, but after hearing some muffled sounds, he turned his head away from the wall and saw the Azerbaijani officer standing by Gurgen’s bed, with a long axe in his hands. “By that time I understood that something terrible had happened for there was blood all around. I started to shout at the Azerbaijani urging him to stop it. He said that had no problems with me and would not touch me, stabbed Gurgen a couple of more times and left. The expression of his face was as if he was glad he had finished something important. Greatly shocked, I ran out of the room to find help, and Ramil went in another direction”.

What happened next testifies that the murder had been planned in advance. It was not a crime of a personal motivations between Gurgen and Ramil. Immediately after murdering Lieutenant Margaryan, Ramil Safarov went to the room of the second Armenian officer, to finish with him as well.

Later in an interview to the “Iravunk” Armenian newspaper Hayk Makuchyan revealed that neither Gurgen nor him had had any contacts with any of the Azerbaijani officers. “They were not of a communicative type. Usually, after classes, they went straight to their rooms”, said Hayk.

That morning, after committing his first murder, Ramil went to Makuchyan's room with an intention to kill him. In the corridor, meeting a classmate from Uzbekistan who came out of the room after hearing suspicious noise, Ramil offered him to come and assist him in killing the second Armenian. The Uzbek tried to calm the murderer down but did not manage to stop him. Afterwards everyone confessed that they were frightened to approach Ramil with a blood-stained axe closer than at three meters. Approaching Makuchyan’s room, Ramil tried to open it by shaking its handle. As Makuchyan confessed, he usually had a habit of locking doors, unlike Gurgen, but that night he forgot to do it, and the door was locked by his Lithuanian roommate. Being unable to open the door, Ramil started to shout out Makuchyan's name in a threatening voice. Half asleep, Hayk went towards the door to open it, but his Lithuanian roommate managed to save him for the second time. He stopped Hayk from opening the door, as he thought that there was a real threat in Safarov's voice and that he might be armed. To make sure, he phoned to another Lithuanian who lived at the same corridor asking him to check whether Safarov was armed and what was going on at all. Meanwhile, Safarov went to look for Hayk in the room of the Serbian and the Ukrainian roommates, showing them the blood-stained axe and stating that he thirsted for nobody's blood but Armenian. Hayk Makuchyan was told afterwards, that Ramil ran to the room of another Azerbaijani officer, told him something in Azerbaijani, and then ran and stabbed the door of Makuchyan’s room three times with an axe. By that time the second Lithuanian and the police approached. Being detained by the Hungarian police, Safarov confessed he had committed a murder. He also promised to kill another Armenian as soon as he was set free. His revenge was not against anyone particular, but against the whole Armenian nation.

Budapest Police Maj. Valter Fulop told reporters that Safarov committed murder with unusual cruelty. The victim's head was practically severed from his body.

Police said a political motive for the murder was among the possibilities being considered and were also looking into how the suspect obtained the weapons of murder. Hayk Makuchyan states that six days before the murder the whole group of the officers at the English Language course was taken to the excursion to Lake Balaton. None of the Azerbaijani officers was present. Afterwards it became known that on that particular day the axe was bought in one of Budapest stores.

The question if there were any conflicts between Margarian and Safarov was raised during the conversation with the press secretary of Hungarian police. The police questioned all students living on that floor of the dormitory. There was nothing said about any conflicts between Armenian and Azerbaijani officers. On the first days of the courses the Armenians greeted their Azerbaijani colleagues ex comitate but received no reply. Everyone knew there were no contacts between them.

At present Ramil Safarov is held in prison in Hungary. His case will be dealt with on 8th of February, 2005.


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