Israeli Military Prosecutor Opposes Hebron Shooter's Request to Delay Prison Sentence

Elor Azaria is to enter prison Wednesday for the manslaughter of an incapacitated Palestinian assailant unless court approves his request to postpone while awaiting a decision on clemency

Elor Azaria next to his mother in a military court on July 30, 2017
Tomer Appelbaum

The Israeli army's prosecutor filed an objection on Monday to the request of a former soldier who shot dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron to delay the beginning his prison sentence until after the army chief rules on his request for clemency.

Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaugher and is set to begin his 18-month prison term on Wednesday after his appeal was rejected last week. He has asked Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to perform community service instead Thursday.

Sources who spoke with Haaretz at the beginning of the week said Eisenkot may be open to such a deal, should Azaria voice regret for his deeds. On Sunday, Azaria's lawyers asked the military appeals court to postpone beginning his prison sentence until Eisenkot rules on the matter. If the court rejects the application, Azaria will begin serving his sentence at the military prison in Tzrifin in central Israel on Wednesday.

Under military law, the chief of staff can decide to shorten a convict's sentence 30 days after it is made final. Azaria's attorneys argue that Eisenkot can already make his decision since Azaria has announced he doesn't intend to appeal his sentence, but the military prosecution believes the army chief will only be authorized to do so in September. 

In their opposition to Azaria's application, military prosecutors Lt. Col. (res.) Nadav Weissman and Capt. Nadav Glass write that the defense's position has no basis in statute or case law. They contend that military law does not grant a convicted person the possibility of waiving an appeal or an application for leave to appeal, but sets defined periods during which the parties may submit their appeals to the competent courts. Only at the end of this period – that is, on September 7 – is the relevant authority (in this case, the chief of staff) permitted to decide on leniency.

The prosecution added that postponement of serving the sentence is unusual. They quote a ruling by the Supreme Court that says, "A defendant sentenced to imprisonment must begin serving his sentence immediately. No delay in carrying out a prison sentence is permitted except in exceptional circumstances or if there are circumstances that justify postponement." They say that, since the military system is based on discipline, it is important that a soldier convicted of an offense begin serving his sentence immediately.