Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has strongly defended his decision to release Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov from a Hungarian prison, saying that it was legal and beneficial for his country.
Orban reiterated his government’s claims that Safarov’s extradition to Azerbaijan more than eight years after the brutal killing of an Armenian army officer in Budapest was based on Hungarian and international laws.
“We would have done the same if an Armenian had killed an Azerbaijani. Hungary should follow its own interests rather than those of Armenia or Azerbaijan,” the MTI news agency quoted him as telling the Hungarian parliament late on Monday.
The controversial premier was responding to a question about the Safarov affair asked by Laszlo Kovacs, an opposition lawmaker and a former Hungarian foreign minister. Kovacs said that by repatriating Safarov the Hungarian side became involved in the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Orban, who has faced street protests in Budapest and resignation calls from the opposition, claimed the opposite. “Hungary got out of [the conflict] by transferring the Azeri convict,” he said, according to Politics.hu. “As long as [Safarov] was here, he caused plenty of problems and difficulties, and the situation [in the Karabakh dispute] would not have changed in the future either.”
Hungarian officials maintain that Safarov was flown back on August 31 after Baku assured Orban’s government had he will serve out his life sentence in an Azerbaijani prison.
Armenia, which suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary on August 31, has shrugged off these assurances. Armenian officials say that Budapest knew that Safarov will be set free on his return home. Some of them have also implicitly accused Orban’s government of receiving material compensation from the Azerbaijani side.
Ferenc Gyurcsany, the former Hungarian prime minister now leading the opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) party, likewise said last month Orban that knew beforehand that Safarov will be pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Gyurcsany accused the government of “selling the country’s honor for 30 pieces of silver.” Orban and his aides deny this.