Trial of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, July 5, 2016.
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Sgt. Elor Azaria’s trial continues on Wednesday with the last of the witnesses taking the stand. IDF Prosecution forensic pathologist Hadas Gips will be heard for the second time, and the Hebron civilian who was the first to report the March 24 shooting of Abdel Fatah al-Sharif will also testify.
Azaria is on trial for manslaughter for shooting Sharif in the head after the Palestinian had already been neutralized by two soldiers whom he attacked.
Gips testified at the start of the case that Azaria’s shooting of Sharif was the kill shot after he had been wounded earlier while attacking IDF soldiers. She will be returning to rebut the defense’s pathologists, most significantly Dr. Yehuda Hiss’s testimony on September 15, that Sharif would have died from his initial wounds even if Azaria had not shot him.
Azaria can only be convicted if the court rules that his shot to the head was what killed Sharif.
On June 16, Gips testified that Sharif’s initial wounds, prior to Azaria shooting him in the head, “were not immediately life threatening, especially with medical care,” and that “if the terrorist had been given medical treatment, he could have possibly been saved.”
On cross-examination, Azaria’s lawyers questioned Gips’s examination of Sharif’s corpse, scrutinizing the length of time it had been in and out of refrigeration before the medical examiner was allowed to inspect it.
There was a 10-day delay before Gips was allowed to examine the body because of a legal dispute with Sharif’s family. The issue was only resolved after a petition to the High Court of Justice led to a compromise, whereby a Palestinian expert was allowed to participate in the autopsy.
Hiss criticized Gips’s analysis as being contradicted by medical journals on what was likely to happen to Sharif based on his earlier wounds. He said that scans of Sharif’s wounds showed that due to his original injuries, air, which was traveling from the lungs to the heart, would have caused immediate death or was about to cause his death, and accused Gips of not performing all necessary aspects of an autopsy.
In contrast, Gips said such a theory regarding Sharif’s death was unlikely and unreasonable, and that there were clear signs in Sharif’s body that he was alive up until Azaria shot him.
The IDF Prosecution also tried to attack Hiss’s credibility, as he is simultaneously widely respected for his knowledge, having run Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine for years, but has been criticized for his admitted involvement in widespread organ harvesting.
Gips was due to testify in late September, but her testimony was postponed for a month until after the fall Jewish holidays.
The other witness scheduled to testify is a Hebron civilian who was the first to report Azaria’s shooting of Sharif to the IDF.
In a trial that has defied traditional boundaries regarding the sides witnesses testify for, with several soldiers testifying against the IDF, this second witness will be the first Hebron civilian, who is seen as sympathetic to Azaria, to testify for the army in this trial.
A verdict is expected in December or January.