The IDF Appeals Court on Wednesday started to hear the appeals of the Hebron shooter verdict, one filed by Elor Azaria and one filed by the IDF prosecution.Azaria's defense team has appealed both his conviction for manslaughter and his 18-month jail sentence.The IDF prosecution has appealed to stiffen the jail sentence, having originally requested three to five years in jail for Azaria and having convinced one of the three-judge panel lower court to vote for that longer sentence against the majority.
Azaria was sentenced in February for killing Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fatah al-Sharif on March 24, 2015, as he lay nearly motionless on the ground, around 10 minutes after Sharif had attacked two Israeli soldiers.Azaria’s appeal seemed focused on overturning the lower IDF trial court’s decision that Azaria had essentially incriminated himself by confessing to two different IDF personnel that he had killed Palestinian terrorist Sharif in retaliation for Sharif stabbing his friend 10 minutes earlier.In court, Azaria's lawyer Yoram Sheftel cited previous cases in which soldiers were not indicted after killing unarmed Palestinians. To which the prosecution responded by pointing to the strong evidence in Azaria's case, mostly due to the video that captured the incident in which the soldier could be heard saying "I shot the terrorist because he deserved to die." The IDF prosecution's appeal declared that the 18-month jail sentence from the lower IDF trial court “was not commensurate with the [Hebron shooter’s] actions…and the grave circumstances of the incident, substantially departed from accepted punishment standards in being overly lenient….and did not send the IDF’s soldiers and the broader society the proper ethical message.”Further, the appeal argues that Azaria cannot seek too much leniency when the lower court ruled that he had lied in his testimony about the incident.In fact, the IDF prosecution said that the leniency that the majority of the lower court gave to Azaria was completely contradictory to its harsh one-sided findings against the Hebron shooter in its verdict convicting him.Azaria’s case has split the country, with most politicians calling for him to be pardoned.But Azaria cannot seek a pardon until he exhausts his rights to appeal, starting with the IDF Appeals Court and possibly going up to the High Court of Justice.
Elor Azaria at sentencing hearing on Feb. 23 , 2017 (credit: REUTERS)