Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother as his father stands nearby, at the start of is sentencing hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv, Israel February 21, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Soldier Elor Azaria, aka the “Hebron shooter,” got a temporary reprieve on Thursday from having to start his 18-month jail sentence, pending his appeal of his manslaughter conviction, when the IDF prosecution, under pressure from the Military Appeals Court, withdrew its request that he start his sentence this coming Sunday.
At a hearing at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Military Appeals Court Judge Brig.-Gen. Orly Markman continually pressured IDF Prosecutor Lt.-Col. Nadav Weissman to explain why he would not agree to delay Azaria’s imprisonment pending the appeal.
Despite Weissman’s initial argument that justice and upholding the IDF’s values demanded that the sentence start immediately, he eventually backed off once the court repeatedly signaled to him that it was likely to rule against him.
Azaria filed his appeal on Wednesday with his main two lawyers until now, Ilan Katz and Eyal Besserglick, quitting in protest, arguing that the appeal would not succeed and that it could bring a counter-appeal from the prosecution that could lead to him getting the three-to-five-year sentence that the IDF prosecution had originally requested.
IDF soldier shoots dead subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, part of Elor Azaria case
His remaining lawyer, Yoram Sheftel, was exuberant about keeping Azaria out of jail, even if it might only be a temporary victory.
Azaria was sentenced in February for killing Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fatah al-Sharif on March 24, 2015, as he lay nearly motionless, around 10 minutes after Sharif had attacked two soldiers.
Until the appeal is decided, he will remain in open detention on the Camp 80 army base, as he has been throughout the case. A decision on the appeal is expected to take several months.
Azaria’s case has split the country, with most politicians calling for him to be pardoned.
But Azaria cannot seek a pardon until he exhausts his right to appeal, starting with the Military Appeals Court and potentially going up to the High Court of Justice.