Israel Army Appeals 'Excessively Lenient' Sentence for Soldier Convicted of Extrajudicial Killing of Palestinian Terrorist

The IDF soldier should have received 3 to 5 years in prison rather than the 18 months he was sentenced to on his manslaughter conviction, prosecutors say.

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Elor Azaria being embraced by his mother at his sentencing hearing, Feb. 21, 2017.
Elor Azaria being embraced by his mother at his sentencing hearing, Feb. 21, 2017.Credit: Jim Hollander / AFP pool photo
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Military prosecutors filed an appeal on Tuesday of the 18-month jail sentence that Israeli soldier Elor Azaria received on his manslaughter conviction for killing a supine Palestinian assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in Hebron a year ago.

Prosecutors contend that the sentence imposed on Azaria, who shot and killed Sharif after the Palestinian had been wounded and was lying on the ground after carrying out an attack, was too lenient, and claim that the three to five year prison term that they had sought in the trial court would be appropriate under the circumstances.

The 18-month sentence was inconsistent with the severity of the case and inconsistent with the trial court's own comments on the case, the prosecution said.  In the alternative, the prosecutors asked that the military appeals court adopt the position of a dissenting judge in the trial court, who took the position that Azaria should have been sentenced to between two-and-a-half years and five years in jail.

In its appeal, the prosecution called the 18-month sentence "excessively lenient" and lenient in light of prior rulings by the Supreme Court and military courts. Allowing the 18-month sentence to stand, the prosecutors stated, might also be construed as a new, more lenient standard than what has applied in cases of this kind up to now.

The sentence, which also included 18 months' probation and a reduction in rank to private, was inconsistent with the moral message that should be transmitted in the case, the appeal stated, adding that there was an irreconcilable disparity between the conviction and the sentence.

Also pending in court is an appeal that Azaria filed of his conviction in which he is seeking a total acquittal. The appeal was filed by his new lawyer in the case, Yoram Sheftel. The appeal of the conviction prompted Azaria's existing defense team to resign in disagreement with the move.

In its own appeal, the prosecution noted that Azaria has not taken responsibility for his actions. The soldier also lied to the court throughout his trial court testimony, the prosecutors claimed.

Last week, the military appeals court agreed to defer the date on which Azaria was due to report to prison until his appeal is heard. Until then, he will be confined to the Nahshonim military base.

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