Is­raeli sol­dier’s man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tion up­held by court

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A mil­i­tary court yes­ter­day up­held a man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tion and 18month prison sen­tence for an Is­raeli sol­dier who shot dead a prone Pales­tinian as­sailant in a case that deeply di­vided the coun­try. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu im­me­di­ately re­peated his call for a par­don for the sol­dier, Elor Azaria, whose ac­tions drew harsh crit­i­cism from the mil­i­tary’s top brass.

In ad­di­tion to up­hold­ing the con­vic­tion, mil­i­tary judges also re­jected an ap­peal by pros­e­cu­tors to in­crease the sen­tence for Azaria, a sergeant and mil­i­tary medic at the time of the in­ci­dent, Is­raeli me­dia re­ported. “My opin­ion has not changed when it comes to grant­ing par­don to Elor Azaria and re­mains con­sis­tent to what I said af­ter the ver­dict,” Ne­tanyahu said on Twit­ter. “When the sub­ject is dis­cussed con­cretely, I will give my rec­om­men­da­tion to the com­pe­tent au­thor­i­ties.”

The 21-year-old French-Is­raeli was con­victed in Jan­uary and sen­tenced the fol­low­ing month. He later ap­pealed the ver­dict, while mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tors asked for an in­creased sen­tence af­ter hav­ing ini­tially re­quested be­tween three and five years. Azaria ar­rived at the mil­i­tary court in Tel Aviv yes­ter­day in a white V-neck shirt, smil­ing and hug­ging fam­ily mem­bers as he has done at pre­vi­ous hear­ings.

He com­pleted his manda­tory three­year mil­i­tary ser­vice on July 20 and was moved from con­fine­ment to his base to house ar­rest. His im­pris­on­ment had been post­poned pend­ing his ap­peal. He can still ap­peal to the coun­try’s supreme court, though De­fence Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man called on him not to and to re­quest a par­don from the mil­i­tary chief of staff.

Cap­tured on video

Azaria can also ask for a par­don from Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin. A source close to Rivlin said that no re­quest had yet been filed. “This is not an easy day, but it is the ver­dict, and the court must be re­spected,” Lieber­man said. “I am ask­ing the Azaria fam­ily not to con­tinue the ap­peal process... and to bring an end to this mat­ter as quickly as pos­si­ble for the good of Elor, his fam­ily and the Is­raeli peo­ple.”

The March 2016 shoot­ing in the oc­cu­pied West Bank city of He­bron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely on­line. It showed Ab­dul Fatah alSharif, 21, ly­ing wounded on the ground, shot along with another Pales­tinian af­ter stab­bing and wound­ing a sol­dier, ac­cord­ing to the army. Azaria then shot him in the head with­out any ap­par­ent provo­ca­tion.

He said he feared Sharif was wear­ing an ex­plo­sive belt and could blow him­self up, a claim judges re­jected. “His mo­tive for shoot­ing was that he felt the ter­ror­ist de­served to die,” Judge Colonel Maya Heller said when read­ing out the ver­dict in Jan­uary. The trial cap­ti­vated Is­rael and high­lighted deep di­vi­sions in pub­lic opin­ion be­tween those who de­cry the shoot­ing and those who say he was jus­ti­fied. Mil­i­tary lead­ers have sharply con­demned Azaria’s ac­tions.

How­ever, right-wing lead­ers, in­clud­ing Ne­tanyahu, have called for him to be par­doned in an ex­tra­or­di­nary pub­lic rift be­tween politi­cians and the mil­i­tary. Rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has said Azaria’s sen­tence does “not re­flect the grav­ity of the of­fence”, and the UN hu­man rights of­fice said it was an “un­ac­cept­able” pun­ish­ment for “an ap­par­ent ex­tra-ju­di­cial killing”. —AFP

TEL AVIV: Is­raeli sol­dier Elor Azaria (C), who shot dead a wounded Pales­tinian as­sailant in March 2016, sits amid his mother Oshra (C-L) and fa­ther Char­lie (C-R) dur­ing a hear­ing at a mil­i­tary court. — AFP

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