Former Israeli soldier Elor Azaria (C), who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for killing a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian assailant, waits to hear the ruling at an Israeli military appeals court in Tel Aviv, Israel July 30, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Elor Azaria will begin serving his 18-month prison sentence on Wednesday after the Military Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied his request to delay the beginning of his sentence until IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot decides whether or not to commute his sentence.
Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by a military court in January for killing incapacitated Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron on March 24, 2016. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, 12 months’ suspended sentence after serving that term and demoted to private in February. He has since been discharged from the army.
Last week, the Military Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and sentence. Following the ruling Eisenkot said that “the military court has spoken out clearly and unequivocally,” and if Azaria chooses to submit a request for leniency it would be considered seriously “while examining all the relevant considerations and with my sole commitment to the values of the IDF and its fighters.”
By law Eisenkot will only be able to discuss Azaria’s request for clemency after September 7, when the verdict becomes final and cannot be appealed.
On Sunday, Azaria’s lawyer Yoram Sheftel asked to hold a hearing on delaying his sentence and entry to prison for three weeks, until the chief of staff decided whether to commute it.
Military prosecutors announced on Monday that they opposed the request, saying it risked setting a precedent in which soldiers found guilty of a crime could delay their prison sentence until they receive a response to any request for clemency.
“There is no basis in reality for Azaria’s claim that the ruling becomes final sooner if a request for clemency is submitted earlier. Military justice states that serving a prison sentence is immediate and delaying that execution of sentence here is an exception to the rule,” the military advocate-general said on Monday.
“The immediacy of punishment is based on the discipline on which the military establishment rests. There is no justification for Azaria’s case to be different from those of other soldiers who request clemency; soldiers who only do so after they begin serving their sentences,” the statement continued.
Azaria appealed to Eisenkot last week stating that he would not appeal to the Supreme Court and asked to have his sentence lightened to community service, writing the chief of staff that he wished “to clarify that if I had known in advance what became apparent in hindsight – that there was no explosive device on the body of the terrorist – I would not have shot.”
In his first public statement since the incident, Azaria on Thursday said that while he still believes that he could be found innocent by the Supreme Court upon appeal, he is going to prison “with my head held high.” He also said that he and his family had “suffered terribly” since the incident, and he wants to return to routine as soon as possible.
Azaria has not expressed any regret for his actions.