SGT. ELOR AZARIA relaxes for a moment at the beginning of his manslaughter trial yesterday at Jaffa Military Court.
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
As the trial of a soldier accused of illegally killing a wounded terrorist resumed on Wednesday, the army questioned a Palestinian who claims to have witnessed a second illegal “execution” by another soldier in the same March 24 incident in Hebron, according to B’Tselem.
The questioning took place on Tuesday night, but was not announced to the press.
Questioning additional witnesses is highly irregular at this point, since Sgt. Elor Azaria is already in the midst of a trial for manslaughter for the incident in which he was filmed firing a shot at the head of the “neutralized” Abdel Fatah al-Sharif who had previously stabbed a soldier.
On Sunday, The Jerusalem Post spoke to two Palestinian witnesses who claimed that the second terrorist killed in the incident, Ramzi al-Kasrawi, was also illegally “executed” and not killed in the thwarting of the attack as the IDF says.
The army immediately rejected the Palestinians’ claims as not corresponding to the findings of its investigation, but B’Tselem confirmed on Wednesday that the army questioned one of these witnesses, Nur Abu Aysha, on Tuesday evening.
The IDF had not yet responded officially at press time and has also not yet said when the second witness, Amani Abu Ayasha, will be questioned. But the Post has learned that the military will likely try to wrap up the issue quickly and does not believe it will impact the case against Azaria.
In contrast, just before the trial restarted at the Jaffa Military Court on Wednesday, the accused soldier’s lawyer Ilan Katz suggested that the new evidence gives credence to his claim that the IDF is singling out his client, with other such instances not being prosecuted.
Katz said that he sent a letter to the military advocate-general threatening to reveal the IDF’s failure to report the second shooting incident if the case against Azaria is not stopped.
If the trial is not halted, this would mean Katz will home in on the officers involved in the incident to expose them for covering up the second alleged execution.
Also on Wednesday, the two B’Tselem videographers who recorded the footage of Azaria shooting the terrorist, Imad Abu Shamsiyeh and Nasser Nawa’ja Aref Jaber, took the stand in court.
The prosecution called them to confirm the authenticity of the videos and to show that they were not edited.
But Azaria’s attorneys tried to undermine Shamsiyeh’s credibility.
Azaria’s co-lawyer Eyal Besserglick said that Shamsiyeh’s son had been arrested by Azaria in February, providing a motive to frame the soldier by editing the video.
Shamsiyeh said he only knew his son was arrested, not by whom.
Besserglick also said that the videographer could not know if the video was tampered with, as he had given it to B’Tselem and Reuters before he gave it to the IDF.
Katz and Besserglick have argued that the IDF is arbitrarily going after Azaria, despite numerous similar cases where it did not indict soldiers for similar conduct, to serve him up as a sacrifice to mollify Western criticism.
The latest B’Tselem allegations about an alleged second execution, if they pan out, would be an evidentiary coup for Katz to prove that argument.
Last week, the Azaria trial opened as the IDF’s lead investigator testified that an ambulance driver had moved a knife closer to the wounded Palestinian attacker’s body after the shooting, implying he tampered with evidence to make the killing look more like self-defense.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.