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On Thursday, April 13th, the Budapest Supreme Court (Hungary) sentenced Ramil Safarov, a lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army to life in prison for his February 2004 murder of an Armenian colleague taking part in a NATO exercise.

In February of 2004, while attending a NATO Partnership for Peace program, Safarov was arrested by Hungarian police for the brutal murder of Armenian fellow participant Lieutenant. Gurgen Markarian. Safarov was found guilty of hacking Markarian to death with an axe and a knife while he slept. Safarov's lawyers immediately announced that they intend to appeal this verdict - which requires an absolute minimum term of 30 years.

Repeated examinations ordered by the Hungarian Ministry of Justice concluded that Safarov was not mentally ill and was able to assess the consequences of his actions. During the hearings, he did not express any regret, and in fact noted his pride in his behaviour. In announcing the verdict, the judged affirmed that the accused "killed his victim only because he was Armenian," noting that the murder committed "was a willful, vile and extraordinarily crual crime."

The European Armenian Federation has shared with the media, policy-makers and political leaders that the Azerbaijani government has treated Safarov as a national hero. In February 2006, he was proclaimed Man of the Year by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Iskander Hamidov, for "protecting state and national interests.". On the occasion of this declaration, Hamidov declared "I don't care how Safarov killed the Armenian officer. The more Azeris kill Armenians, the less Armenians there will be. If every Azeri soldier had killed an Armenian the war would have ended with the victory of

"The Safarov case illustrates the anti-Armenian hysteria prevailing in Azerbaijan. The incitements to racial hatred being propagated by Azerbaijani political leaders represent the continuation of the horrors that the Armenians of Karabakh endured for decades before escaping from Azerbaijani control," declared Laurent Leylekian, Executive Director of the European Armenian Federation.

Between 1988 and 1994, 500,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan, largely the victims of pogroms (Sumgaït, Kirovabad, Baku) organized by Azerbaijani authorities, were forced to flee their country.

"The climate of hatred fueled by the Azerbaijani authorities remains the main obstacle to the OSCE peace process. In the interest of peace, the European Union should impose upon Azerbaijan the sames restrictions that it has used in dealing with the leaders of Belarus," concluded Laurent

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