Military Court to Deliver Final Verdict on Hebron Shooter's Manslaughter Appeal

Defense and prosecution had appealed the original verdict in the case in which Elor Azaria was convicted for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant

Sgt. Elor Azaria and his parents at a military court in Tel Aviv, July 2017.
Moti Milrod

The verdict in the Elor Azaria appeal is to be delivered Sunday in the military appeals court in Tel Aviv.

>> Analysis: Israeli army's morality at stake as court set to rule on Hebron shooter's appeal >>

Both the defense and the prosecution have appealed the original verdict in the case in which Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison for shooting and killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif.

The verdict on the appeal, before a panel headed by Maj. Gen. Doron Piles, is to be delivered after Azaria’s attorneys and the military prosecution failed to reach a compromise as recommended by the court.

According to the army spokesman, in the attempt by the two sides to reach a compromise on sentencing “the gaps between the sides are significant and fundamental,” and so the parties told the court that negotiations had failed.

In the last hearing, in May, Judge Zvi Segal said: “We will do our duty, and that is to write the verdict. But any outcome will be problematic.”

Azaria will come to court Sunday from his home in Ramle, where he has been under house arrest since he was released from the army two weeks ago. He has been allowed out of the house only to go to services Friday and Saturday at a synagogue near his home, accompanied by one of his parents.

Azaria had spent half his military service confined to base (the military version of house arrest) and doing maintenance work, other than the nine days he spent behind bars right after he shot Sharif in March 2016 in Hebron.

If the appeal is rejected, Azaria’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, may take the case to the Supreme Court. If he does so, he can ask the court for Azaria’s sentence to be postponed for a second time. The prosecution is expected to protest this request as it did when the appeal was first lodged.

Azaria can also ask that the sentence be reduced after the verdict is delivered. In that case, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot will make a decision based on the opinion of the military prosecution. For that to happen, Azaria would have to declare that he takes responsibility for his actions.

Another option is for Azaria to seek a presidential pardon, in which case Reuven Rivlin would ask for the opinion of the military advocate general, the head the IDF Manpower Directorate, Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already said he is in favor of a pardon for Azaria.

If Azaria’s appeal is rejected, he is expected to serve his time in a military prison despite his release from the army.