BAKU — 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.”

In his speech Aliyev also pledged that, ” Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. All the factors- comparison of powers, international and economic-military factors indicate it. Just it takes time and we want to achieve it soon. Azerbaijan’s state flag should be waved in Shusha, Khankendi and Azerbaijanis should live in their historical lands in the future. Our historical lands are Yerevan khanate, Goyce and Zangazur regions. There will be times; we will live in these lands. I believe it, I am sure. Everyone should put their efforts in order to achieve it. Everyone should bring this sacred day nearer via their activities”.

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