Prosecutor accuses activist, soldier of cover-up in Hebron shooter trial

Father slams PM, prosecutor; Court threatens to kick family out

Trial of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, July 5, 2016 (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Trial of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, July 5, 2016
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Hebron shooter Elor Azaria conspired with right-wing activist Ofer Ohana to cover up the fact that Azaria shot “neutralized” Abdel Fatah al-Sharif out of revenge and not in self-defense, the IDF prosecution claimed at the manslaughter trial on Tuesday.
The accusation was made while lead prosecutor Lt.-Col.
Nadav Weissman questioned Ohana about his involvement in the March 24 incident in which al-Sharif was killed after stabbing a soldier, despite the fact that the terrorist was already “neutralized.”
Ohana, an ambulance driver who arrived at the scene of the incident, also took one of the videos in which some bystanders are seen calling out that al-Sharif may have an explosive vest.
IDF investigators previously showed video footage proving that Ohana moved a knife closer to the supine Palestinian terrorist, and argued that he did this to make it look like Azaria had killed him in self-defense.
Azaria’s attorneys claim that the soldier shot the immobilized Palestinian terrorist because he thought he still posed a risk either by reaching for a knife or because he suspected al-Sharif was wearing an explosive vest under his jacket.
The prosecution started by establishing that Ohana had not handed over all of his video footage to police in an initial meeting, withholding a video that helped prove his moving the knife.When asked why Ohana did not hand over his footage to police, he responded, “I can’t answer without incriminating myself.”
In response, the court gave Ohana immunity to testify about moving the knife since he is currently under investigation for withholding, destroying or tampering with evidence.
Even with the limited immunity, Ohana can still be prosecuted, just not for anything he said in court Tuesday.
Under questioning and with the limited immunity, Ohana eventually confessed to moving the knife, which is considered tampering with a crime scene, to ensure that later “Palestinians could not claim a knife wasn’t there.”
“I worried the ambulance would move it far,” he said.
Ohana had originally claimed that perhaps his ambulance had accidentally moved it.
Weissman refuted the claim, showing film which showed that the knife was still far from the terrorist’s body even after the ambulance came in.
Trying to show a full-fledged cover- up by Ohana with Azaria, prosecutors revealed that Azaria admitted to police that Ohana had essentially told him to lie to them and say he thought the terrorist was reaching for a knife – this after Ohana moved the knife closer to al-Sharif’s body.
Ohana denied the claims, saying that he only told Azaria he would help him get a lawyer.
However, he could not explain why Azaria would have made the allegation against him.
Weissman also attacked Ohana’s claims that he thought the terrorist may have had a bomb strapped to his body, which would have potentially justified Azaria shooting him, saying that he would not have come so close to the body if this had been the case.
In addition, Ohana admitted to having erased a recorded phone call with Azaria’s father. Prosecutors argued that Ohana vowed to help Azaria in the criminal probe during the conversation.
Ohana is a known right-wing activist from Kiryat Arba who works as an ambulance driver and often takes video footage of the aftermath of terrorist attacks, as he did in the Hebron incident.
He explained, “I film terrorism scenes to show the world Palestinian attacks on the IDF and Israel, so they won’t think we kill innocent, nonviolent Palestinians.”
He said that after an initial round of meetings, he told Military Police probing the shooting that he could not cooperate with them further, because they were out to get Azaria, not to find the truth. • The prosecution implied that Ohana left Military Police questioning in the middle because he was trying to avoid revealing information to the police.
Following Ohana’s questioning and during a recess, Elor’s father Charlie burst out into an emotional attack on the IDF prosecution, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the system for abandoning his son and manufacturing a case against him.
“Have any of the prosecutors served in Hebron? Do they know what it is to send an 18-year-old child to Hebron? They manufactured a case. Where is the prime minister? Where is the whole system?” he said with his body and voice shaking.
After the outburst, Weissman told the court that the father and some of Azaria’s other family members had engaged in unacceptable incitement against the prosecution.
IDF Col. and lead judge Maya Heller told the family members that they would be thrown out of court if there was another similar outburst and that she was only letting them stay after Azaria’s lawyer Ilan Katz vouched that it would not happen again.
Next, one of Azaria’s co-soldiers testified, saying that though there was talk of an explosive in the area among some, he did not feel any danger.
Due to prior incitement against IDF Maj. Tom Naaman, one of Azaria’s commanders who testified against him, the soldier’s name is under gag order.
The soldier also testified that he heard Azaria tell Naaman that he had shot al-Sharif because he had wounded his friend, so he deserved it.
On Wednesday, the court will hear the highest ranking soldier involved in the incident and the investigation, Hebron area commander Col. Yariv Ben Ezra, testify against Azaria.