THE FATHER of convicted Sgt. Elor Azaria (center) prays behind him in a military court during a remand hearing for his case last March.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hebron shooter Elor Azaria’s defense team on Tuesday asked the Jaffa Military Court to toss out its manslaughter conviction due to alleged tampering with the legal proceedings by IDF Col. Guy Hazot, who is said to have offered Azaria a more lenient sentence in exchange for expressing regret.
The court made an interim ruling that it would move forward with the hearing and not toss out the verdict, but would revisit the tampering allegations later in the hearing.
Reports broke on January 11 about a meeting between Hazot, Azaria’s brigade commander, and Azaria’s father, Charlie, in which Hazot allegedly offered lenient treatment to end the public relations headache and social divisions that the case has created and deepened within the army and throughout the country.
Indications were that no deal was reached, which appeared to be confirmed by the defense team’s aggressive posture on Tuesday.
Tensions running high shortly before verdict in Hebron shooting case given to Elor Azaria (credit: REUTERS)
The judges seemed taken aback at the suggestion and tried to direct the defense team to focus their arguments on what Azaria’s sentence would be and not on backtracking to second-guess the verdict.
Last week, Channel 2 reported that the IDF Military Advocate General would seek a three-to-five-year jail sentence for Azaria.
Azaria was convicted on January 4 for manslaughter in the March 24, 2015 killing of wounded Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif, and sentencing arguments were set for January 24.
The trial has divided the IDF and the country and drawn international attention going to the crux of a debate within Israeli society of how young IDF soldiers should respond to Palestinian violence, and specifically as to whether Azaria killed Sharif out of revenge for having stabbed his friend.
During the incident, Sharif stabbed another IDF soldier, a friend of Azaria’s, but was then shot several times and fell to the ground. By the time Azaria arrived on the scene, around 10 minutes later, IDF personnel in the area did not view Sharif as a threat. Instead, Azaria, whose actions were captured on a video that went viral, shot Sharif in the head, killing him.
Though Azaria claimed self-defense out of concern that Sharif would attack again with a knife or was wearing a concealed explosive vest, the Jaffa Military Court rejected all of his defenses as being invented after the fact and convicted him based on his original explanation of the shooting – that it was out of revenge.