Hebron shooter judge promoted to IDF Appeals Court signals rejection of bias charges

Those politicians on the Right who have taken Azaria's side say that he engaged in self-defense over fears that a Palestinian attacker was wearing concealed explosives when he shot the attacker.

By
November 19, 2016 20:17
2 minute read.
The father of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter

The father of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter after he shot a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground in Hebron on March 24, kisses his head in a military court. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Signifying her running of the trial has full backing both within the IDF and across the political divide, IDF Col. Judge Maya Heller who is the lead judge in the Hebron shooter trial on Friday was promoted to sit on the IDF Appeals Court.

Heller has been constantly attacked by the Hebron shooter's defense team as being biased toward the IDF prosecution and Elor Azaria's lawyers have made it clear that they will use that argument if they lose the case and need to appeal.

The charges of bias have ranged from allegations that the IDF prosecution's witnesses and the prosecutor's on cross-examination are allowed to ask more probing and hypothetical questions, while the defense is denied similar rights, to pronouncements by the panel about which way it is leaning about aspects of the evidence.

Heller's promotion undercuts allegations of bias as the IDF's Judicial Selection Committee would be unlikely to promote a judge to the prestigious appeals court if that judge was viewed as being under a cloud of improper conduct in the IDF's flagship case.

Most significant about the Judicial Selection Committee which approved Heller's promotion to the appeals court was that its chair is Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and its members also include Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Liberman, until he was appointed defense minister and even somewhat afterwards, has been Azaria's loudest supporter and attacked the IDF prosecution for even bringing the manslaughter case to trial.

Shaked has not spoken about it as much, but her political boss, Bayit Yehudi party leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett has slammed the trial as well and even called for pardoning Azaria before a verdict comes down.

Those politicians on the Right who have taken Azaria's side say that he engaged in self-defense over fears that a Palestinian attacker was wearing concealed explosives when he shot the attacker who was already "neutralized" on March 24. At the very least they say, his shooting the attacker was an understandable error in a tense operational situation and that manslaughter charges were overdoing it.

Despite their views of the case, their approval of Heller to the appeals court, signals that they will have to mute any criticism of bias if the court issues a verdict convicting Azaria.

Also, on the committee promoting Heller were Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, Deputy President Elyakim Rubenstein, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, IDF Appeals Court President Maj. Gen. Doron Files and other top IDF and Israel Bar Association officials.

Their approval signals that Heller's conduct of the trial had the full backing of all major legal bodies, including the IDF Appeals Court which could be called on to rule on the bias charges, and the IDF's top official, Eisenkot.


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