Hebron Shooter's Appeal of Manslaughter Verdict Opens Wednesday

Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted by an Israeli military court of killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif while the Palestinian, who had stabbed another soldier, was lying on the ground badly wounded

Elor Azaria and his mother at a military court hearing in Jaffa, February 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Soldier Elor Azaria’s appeal of his manslaughter conviction will open on Wednesday before an expanded panel of the Military Court of Appeals.

Sgt. Azaria was convicted by a military court earlier this year of killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif while the Palestinian was already lying on the ground badly wounded by soldiers’ fire. Azaria shot him 11 minutes after Sharif, who had stabbed another soldier from Azaria’s unit, was shot repeatedly and subdued. The court sentenced Azaria to 18 months in prison for this killing, which took place in Hebron in March 2016.

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.

Supporters of Sgt. Elor Azaria, convicted of manslaughter for killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker, clash with police outside the Defense Ministry, Tel Aviv, January 4, 2017.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

Azaria’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, has appealed the sentence as well as the conviction, saying it is too harsh even if the conviction is upheld. But he insisted in the appeal that “the verdict’s conviction will vanish and the appellant will be acquitted of all guilt.”

The five-judge panel hearing the appeal will be headed by the president of the Military Court of Appeals, Maj. Gen. Doron Piles. The other members of the bench will be 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.

Azaria served in the Kfir Brigade.