Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has strongly defended his controversial decision to free, promote and reward an Azerbaijani army officer who hacked to death a sleeping Armenian colleague in Hungary in 2004.
In a speech delivered on Wednesday and reported by Azerbaijani news agencies the following day, Aliyev also alleged that “fascism” has been the dominant Armenian national ideology over the past century.
“I remember how many unfounded accusations and attacks I faced from hypocritical foreign politicians after the liberation and return to the homeland of the Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov,” he said. “The European Parliament even adopted a resolution on this issue and condemned my steps.”
“But I will repeat with the same determination that Azerbaijan freed its officer, returned him to the homeland and restored justice,” he declared.
Safarov was sentenced by a Hungarian court to life imprisonment for axe-murdering Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian during a NATO course in Budapest. Aliyev pardoned Safarov immediately after the Hungarian authorities unexpectedly extradited him to Azerbaijan in August last year. The officer was also promoted to the rank of army major, granted a free apartment and paid eight years’ worth of back pay.
Safarov’s glorification provoked a furious reaction from Armenia and strong Western criticism.
Aliyev, who will almost certainly secure a third term in office in an upcoming presidential election, made the remarks as he inaugurated a memorial to the victims to what his regime says was genocide committed by Armenians in northern Azerbaijan in 1918. He said the atrocity was a vivid manifestation of “Armenian fascism.”
“Armenian fascism once again showed its face in the late 1980s and the early 1990s,” Aliyev said, referring to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“The ideology of the modern Armenian state is also based on fascism,” he charged. “I believe that Armenian fascism should be researched by Azerbaijani scholars more thoroughly.”