Medic at Hebron Soldier's Manslaughter Trial Refuses to Answer Military Police Queries

Court allows Ofer Ohana not to give details that would incriminate himself, during trial of Elor Azaria.

Israel Defense Forces medic Ofer Ohana, in the courtroom where the trial of Elor Azaria, accused of shooting a wounded Palestinian to death in March, is being held, on July 5, 2016.
Moti Milrod

The army medic at the scene of the incident in Hebron, when Sgt. Elor Azaria allegedly shot a wounded Palestinian to death, refused to answer questions at Azaria's trial on Tuesday.

Ofer Ohana’s lawyer had asked the court to grant his client immunity from self-incrimination while giving testimony about the incident, on March 24, and military prosecutors did not object to the request.

During questioning by Military Police investigators, Ohana had refused to talk about a telephone call he had conducted with Azaria’s father the day after the incident.

The medic claimed that the investigators were trying to incriminate him; the investigators, for their part, said that when asked why he would not answer their questions, Ohana said simply that “he did not want to.”

Ohana was asked by the prosecutor why he refused to give details about the conversation with Azaria’s father, and he said he sent a WhatsApp message to investigators saying that he thought they were not trying to discover the truth, but just wanted to incriminate Azaria and himself.

Ohana refused to respond when asked about whether the terrorist’s knife was moved closer to the body after the shooting, as one of the video clips played in court last week seemed to show. Ohana said he had already been questioned by the police on the matter, as a possible suspect, “so I don’t know if I can answer that.”

The prosecutor told Ohana he had the right not to answer the question if he thought he would incriminate himself.

Later he said, however, that when he saw that as the ambulance drove away, it moved the knife, and he knew another ambulance would be dispatched to the crime scene, he "moved the knife nearer to the spot, in order for it not to roll another 10 meters, and then once again the Arabs would say that Israeli army soldiers murdered an innocent person without a knife.”

“I am being threatened today, and I don’t intend to die because people here leak material irresponsibly as if I were obstructing justice,” said Ohana. “It endangers my life. When I gave [investigators] the material I did so innocently in order that the truth would be found.”

The prosecutor asked why Ohana did not mention anything about a possible explosive device which certain persons present at the scene apparently thought the terrorist had on his body.

Ohana: “I am not in laboratory conditions. At the same time what I saw was the knife so I dwelled on it.”

The medic explained that he is not a bomb-disposal expert and that according to Israel Defense Forces rules and Magen David Adom emergency service regulations, every assailant involved in an terror incident is considered to continue to constitute a real danger – in the event that he has an explosive device or wants to continue the attack – until the explosives expert arrives.

Ohana said military prosecutors refused to allow him to read his testimony to the Military Police before appearing in court. He had asked to postpone Tuesday’s hearing, he added, because of the two recent terrorist attacks near Hebron. “I can’t sleep at night,” he said.