An Azerbaijani army lieutenant who had brutally murdered a sleeping Armenian colleague in Budapest was promoted to the rank of major and received hefty material benefits from Azerbaijan’s government on Saturday one day after being released from a Hungarian prison.
News reports from Baku said Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev announced the promotion when he received the officer, Ramil Safarov, in his office. Abiyev wished the 35-year-old future success in his military career.
Abiyev went on to thank President Ilham Aliyev for granting Safarov a pardon immediately after the latter’s controversial repatriation from Hungary, where he served a life sentence for hacking to death Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian during a NATO training course in 2004.
According to the Trend news agency, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has also decided to provide Markarian’s confessed killer with a free apartment and pay his wages accumulated during his more than eight-year imprisonment.
Armenia denounced Safarov’s promotion and rewards. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, Artsrun Hovannisian, said they demonstrated that “the Azerbaijani leadership is also in a sick mental state.” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Baku is thus turning “the brutal murderer of a sleeping person” into a role model for Azerbaijani army officers.
Safarov received a hero’s welcome and described his release as a “triumph of justice” on his return to Azerbaijan. “I am ready to continue my military service,” he was reported to tell journalists in Baku.
Aliyev’s decision has been criticized by the United States and angrily condemned by Armenia. However, the Azerbaijani government has defended the move, saying that it conforms to Azerbaijani and international laws.
Ali Ahmedov, executive secretary of Aliyev’s ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, hailed Safarov’s release as a “harbinger” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule. “Both Karabakh and Ramil became victims of saboteurs,” Trend quoted him as saying late on Friday. “The former is occupied by the enemy, while the latter was deprived of liberty for so many years. Ramil has been liberated and so will be Karabakh.”