Trial of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, July 5, 2016.
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
The lawyers of Sgt. Elor Azaria, on trial for manslaughter for shooting Palestinian Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in the head, submitted their summations to the Military Court in Jaffa on Sunday.
The summations, to be wrapped up this week, are expected to ask the court to acquit Azaria of the charges completely, arguing that his version of events had been confirmed during the investigation and the trial.
In their summations, the defense denied the sergeant stated to his commanders and friends that Sharif “deserved to die” because he had stabbed his friends, a statement that the prosecution said is enough to convict on.
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“Even if we accept what Azaria said, he said it while under immense pressure, following a traumatic incident,” the defense said, adding that “even if we accept this claim, that a man can think that a terrorist must die, this claim does not deny the fact that Azaria felt that the terrorist posed a threat.”
According to the defense team, the environment surrounding the scene before Azaria shot Sharif was chaotic, with people screaming that Sharif might have an explosive vest. Because of that environment, Azaria felt his life, and that of his friends, was in immediate danger and therefore shot Sharif based on his training.
The defense also noted in their summations that Sharif’s heavy coat was suspicious and that the he had moved just before Azaria shot him. Sharif’s body had not been thoroughly checked for explosives, leaving Azaria no choice but to shoot him in his head as shooting him anywhere else might cause him to explode had he been wearing any explosive devices.
Moreover, the ones who did not act properly, his lawyers said, were his commanders who put the blame on Azaria because they had failed to act.
The defense also argued that statements made by top military brass, including former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot “infected” the trial by condemning the conscript before the trial even began.
The summations also include the findings of Prof. Yehuda Hiss, a former director of the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, who said in court that Sharif would have died even without Azaria’s actions.
Azaria’s trial has led to major controversy in the country and sparked political tensions, with far-right supporters calling for the soldier’s release, while rights groups have labeled the killing a summary execution.
In the next stage of the trial both the defense and prosecution will give their oral summations. The final verdict is expected to be delivered in the next two weeks.