The IDF prosecution on Tuesday appealed to the Military Appeals Court to stiffen the sentence of Hebron shooter Elor Azaria from 18 months in prison to 36-60 months.The appeal comes less than one week after Azaria himself appealed his manslaughter conviction last week.
Azaria was sentenced in February for killing Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in March 2015 as he lay nearly motionless on the ground some 10 minutes after Sharif had attacked two Israeli soldiers.In its appeal, the prosecution declared that the 18-month 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.”From the outset, the IDF prosecution noted that even the lower trial court had been divided with two judges voting for the lighter sentence and one judge voting for a 30-60 month sentence.It cited the dissenting trial court judge who voted for a longer jail sentence who wrote that the punishment given did not show sufficient respect for the sacredness of human life “and that is even in regard to this man who was a criminal and who did not engender too much sympathy.”The appeal argues further that Azaria cannot seek too much leniency because the lower court ruled that he had lied in his testimony about the incident. The prosecution stated that the leniency the majority of the lower court gave to Azaria was completely contradictory to its harsh one-sided findings against him in its verdict to convict.It also said its request for the longer prison sentence already grants Azaria leniency for the special operational circumstances in which his killing of Sharif took place without which it would have requested an even longer sentence.It is not unusual for the state or IDF prosecution to file a counter appeal if a defendant appeals, and negotiations over those scenarios are commonplace with prosecutors justifying the negotiations on the grounds that they believe they would win on appeal, and may only decline to appeal out of mercy and to save additional litigation time and energy.Azaria’s appeal seemed focused on overturning the lower IDF trial court’s decision that he had essentially incriminated himself by confessing to two different IDF personnel that he killed Sharif because the terrorist had stabbed his friend.The case has split the country, with most politicians calling for Azaria to be pardoned, but he cannot seek a pardon until he exhausts his rights to appeal.Meanwhile, Channel 2 on Tuesday revealed a tape of former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon at a rally of supporters in Rehovot blasting his political rivals’ handling of Azaria.Ya’alon said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “switched sides” on the Azaria issue because polls indicated the public supported the soldier.“Is that leadership?” he asked rhetorically, adding that his successor as defense minister, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett inflamed tensions on the issue for their own political gain without checking the facts of the case. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
Elor Azaria at sentencing hearing on Feb. 23 , 2017 (credit: REUTERS)