Israeli soldier loses appeal of manslaughter conviction


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A military appeals court upheld the manslaughter conviction of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of shooting a downed Palestinian terrorist.

The five-judge panel in its ruling Sunday also upheld the soldier’s 18-month prison sentence, which the prosecution had called too lenient.

Rejecting arguments by the defense and new information in its request to overturn the conviction, the judges said Azaria’s “manner was more suitable for a shooting range than the scene of a terror attack.” The judges also noted that Azaria never expressed remorse for his actions.

Following the verdict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several Israeli government ministers called for Azaria to be pardoned. Netanyahu also backed a pardon following Azaria’s conviction in January.

“My opinion has not changed on the question of granting a pardon to Elor Azaria, as I expressed it after the conviction in January,” Netanyahu wrote in a tweet Sunday. “When the subject comes up during pardon deliberations, I will offer my recommendation for a pardon to the relevant authorities.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev, a former Israeli military spokesman, also came out for a pardon.

Azaria can still appeal his conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court. He is scheduled to begin serving his prison sentence on Aug. 9.

Azaria, who was sentenced in February, has been under house arrest since leaving the military last week. He had been confined to the closed Nachshonim military base since being arrested in March 2016.

A medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, Azaria came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016. One assailant was killed, and Abdel Fattah al-Sharif was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head in a shooting that was captured on video by a local resident for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Azaria was arrested the same day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots by Azaria killed Sharif. Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.

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