Hebron Shooter Elor Azaria's Lawyer: 'He Never Stood a Chance'

Yoram Sheftel blames 'statements by top army people' as he appeals the soldier’s manslaughter conviction for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant

Elor Azaria in court, May 8 2017.
Moti Milrod

The lawyer for Sgt. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot and killed an incapacitated Palestinian assailant a year ago, said Monday his client “never had a chance” and repeated his claim that Azaria was a victim of selective enforcement.

The lawyer, Yoram Sheftel, was speaking on the second day of hearings in Azaria’s appeal against his manslaughter conviction and 18-month sentence for shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head in March 2016. In the incident in the settlement of Hebron, Sharif had been lying motionless on his back, wounded after having stabbed a soldier.

On Monday, Sheftel is expected to complete his arguments against the conviction. The military prosecutor, Nadav Weisman, who is appealing the sentence he considers too lenient, will also argue his case.

“Elor never had a chance in the trial given statements by top army people,” Sheftel said at the start of his remarks. He argued that Azaria was a victim of selective enforcement, saying the soldier’s case was similar to others in which policemen and soldiers shot Palestinians and were not tried.

Sheftel mentioned the case of Col. Israel Schumer, who was documented shooting and killing a Palestinian throwing rocks at him. Military prosecutors closed the case on the grounds that the shooting had been justified. But Sheftel claimed that the case was more serious one of a senior officer firing a weapon against orders and then abandoning the wounded man.

Referring to Schumer’s case and the case of a police volunteer who shot and killed a wounded assailant in Tel Aviv in March 2016, Sheftel said, “It is unthinkable that they suffered nothing and [Azaria] is convicted of manslaughter.”

The appeals by Azaria and the prosecution are being heard by an expanded panel. During the first hearing last week, Sheftel argued that Azaria was suffering discriminatory enforcement and gave 17 examples he said were “much worse” than Azaria’s case yet never went to trial.

The prosecution rebutted that most of the cases were closed because, as he put it, in most cases when Israeli soldiers shoot, it’s justified.