Israeli Soldier's Attorney Asserts Trial on Controversial Hebron Shooting Was Unwarranted

Ilan Katz says former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's remarks that Elor Azaria, the soldier charged with manslaughter, had 'sinned' were baseless.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Elor Azaria leaves the courthouse with his family, November 23, 2016.
Elor Azaria leaves the courthouse with his family, November 23, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

It’s not the shot fired by Elor Azaria that has shaken the country, but former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s statement that the soldier sinned, Azaria’s attorney said in the closing argument on Wednesday.

Azaria has been charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing a Palestinian perpetrator of a stabbing attack in Hebron in March when the man was already lying on the ground, wounded.

“We’ve seen dozens of videotaped incidents of Border Police soldiers and policemen shooting at terrorists,” attorney Ilan Katz said. “Some appeared to have been neutralized ... But we haven’t seen a single policeman or soldier brought in handcuffs like an ordinary criminal. We haven’t seen any indictments, and we haven’t seen the public security minister say these were policemen who sinned.”

The public security minister is responsible for the police, like the defense minister is for the army.

Azaria shouldn’t have stood trial at all, Katz continued. “Azaria’s arms remain pure. He didn’t shoot to murder and kill, or to satisfy a desire for vengeance.”

But the military prosecutor claims that Azaria shot the terrorist solely because he had stabbed his comrade, and not, as the defense claims, because of fears that he might set off a suicide vest.

“The reason for the shot was that the terrorist attacked the defendant’s comrade and tried to kill him,” said the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Nadav Weisman. “The reason was rooted in the past, not fear for the future – and therefore it was illegal.”

Weisman noted that on the very day the incident occurred, both Azaria’s company commander and one of his fellow soldiers told the military police that they heard him say the terrorist “stabbed my friend, and needs to die.”

“I haven’t found any court, either in Israel or overseas, that has approved such shooting ... The defendant is seeking to create a new law, the Azaria law, and there’s no place for such a law,” Weisman added. “The defendant killed illegally, and the law demands convicting him of the crimes of which he was charged.”

The court will announce its verdict on the case in the first week of January.

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