The Military Court of Appeals rejected on Tuesday Elor Azaria’s request that he not begin his prison sentence until the Israeli army’s chief of staff has ruled on his clemency request. As a result, Azaria is to begin his 18-month jail sentence on Wednesday.
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Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in Hebron last year, asked the appellate court on Sunday to postpone his entry into prison until Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot decides whether or not to reduce his sentence. The military prosecution opposed the request.
Azaria is to present himself at the military Prison 4 in Tzrifin by 10 am. Because Azaria was discharged from the army after being demoted to a private from a sergeant as a result of his court martial, he will be re-issued a uniform upon entering the prison, in keeping with the regulations for all the detention center's prisoners. As part of his processing, Azaria will be interviewed by his new company commander and will meet with the mental health officer, a representative from the Adjutancy Corps and the doctor.
According to military regulations, prisoners may receive family visitors ten days after they enter prison and from then on once every two weeks. After having served a third of their sentence – which is currently half a year for Azaria – prisoners are permitted furloughs to go home. On holidays, Azaria will be eligible to apply for several days with his family.
The appellate court upheld Azaria’s conviction and sentence on July 30, but he didn’t enter jail immediately because he said he planned to try a further appeal to the Supreme Court. Later, however, he decided against this step and asked Eisenkot for clemency instead.
If Eisenkot reduces his sentence substantially, he might be able to serve it through community service rather than in jail. Therefore, Azaria argued in his new request to the appeals court, he shouldn’t be required to start serving his sentence until Eisenkot makes his decision.
But immediately after the appellate court’s ruling on July 30, military sources said that Eisenkot wouldn’t even consider a clemency request unless Azaria actually entered prison and also expressed regret for killing Al-Sharif. To date, Azaria has never expressed any such regret, either during the legal proceedings against him or in his clemency request.
Moreover, by law, the chief of staff is supposed to rule on a clemency request 30 days after a verdict has become final. Azaria’s defense attorneys say that since Azaria has given up on appealing to the Supreme Court, Eisenkot could decide immediately. But the military prosecution argues that the verdict will become final only 30 days after the appellate court handed down its verdict, meaning Eisenkot won’t have the power to reduce Azaria’s sentence until September.