Hebron Shooter's Attorney: Worse Cases End Without Trial

Appeal hearings for Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria begin with judge's denial of defense attorney's request to enter into evidence 17 similar cases that were closed without legal proceedings

Israeli army sergeant Elor Azaria at an appeal hearing on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

The defense attorney of an Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing a Palestinian attacker while he was already lying wounded on the ground said Wednesday that more severe cases end without charges.

A military court sentenced Sgt. Elor Azaria to 18 months in prison for the killing in Hebron last year, leading to Wednesday's appeal hearing, during which Sheftel gave 17 examples of cases he called "dozens of times worse" than Azaria's that ended without legal proceedings.

Sheftel requested that these incidents, which he said were all based on Haaretz reports, be added into evidence in Azaria's case, but his reques was ultimately denied.

Among the examples, Sheftel cited the case of a police volunteer who shot a wounded assailant in Tel Aviv in March last year, after which the case was closed by the internal investigations department. Sheftel also brought up an incident in which a border police officer shot a suspect in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem in June, 2010 - a case that was also closed.

Sheftel also made use of another high-profile case in which Col. Yisrael Shomer was filmed shooting and killing a Palestinian who was throwing rocks at him. Israeli army prosecutors closed the case against him and decided that the shooting was justified.

Military prosecutor Lt. Col. (Res.) Nadav Wisman asked the judges to reject Sheftel's request to add the old cases into evidence, asking, "Is this request being made in good faith? ... We aren't aware of any case that was presented to the prosecution in which, according to the evidence, a soldier arrives 11 minutes after the terrorist was neutralized and laying on the ground and fires a bullet into his head.

"In none of the cases that attorney Sheftel addressed was it claimed that shortly after the shooting, when the soldier was asked why he shot, he said, 'he's a terrorist and he deserves to die.'"

Aside from Wednesday’s scheduled hearing, two other days of hearings on the appeal have been set, one next week and one in late May. Until the court hands down its ruling, Azaria will remain under open arrest – restricted to Nachshonim army base.

In addition to Azaria’s appeal of his conviction, the military prosecution has appealed what they view as the leniency of his sentence. Prosecutors say the 18-month sentence doesn’t match the severity of Azaria’s crimes or the ringing condemnation the court itself issued in its verdict.

The five-judge panel hearing the appeal is headed by the president of the Military Court of Appeals, Maj. Gen. Doron Piles. The other members of the bench are Jerusalem District Court Judge Zvi Segal, National Labor Court President Yigal Plitman and two army officers who are not jurists. They are Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, a former head of the Home Front Command, and Brig. Gen. Avi Peled, a former commander of the Golani Brigade.