Israeli defense chief asks president to pardon soldier who shot downed Palestinian terrorist


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman asked the country’s president to pardon an Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing an injured Palestinian terrorist as he lay on the ground.

In a letter sent Sunday to President Reuven Rivlin on behalf of jailed soldier Elor Azaria, Liberman said: “We must put an end to the affair that shook Israeli society, and at this time show leniency and mercy to the soldier,” Ynet reported.

“Israeli society faced a test in this affair that demonstrates, perhaps more than any other incident in recent years, the rifts and divisions within it,” Liberman wrote.

“In this unique case, the public interest must also come into consideration — the need to mend rifts in society, and the effect the incident and the trial had on Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers. We send our sons and daughters to defend state security and the public peace, putting them in complex situations the likes of which don’t exist anywhere in the world, and demand of them — and we will continue doing so — to act courageously, with determination, professionally and morally.”

Liberman also said: “I believe pardoning Elor Azaria will not detract from these demands, and create the right balance between the immense importance of the rule of law and the public and personal considerations concerning this matter.”

Liberman noted in his letter that the Azaria family paid “a heavy price” in dealing with the long and public trial.

Azaria, who has expressed no remorse for his actions, submitted a request for clemency to the president last month, according to Ynet.

In September, the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, shortened Azaria’s sentence to 14 months from 18 months. Eisenkot had earlier declined to pardon Azaria.

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 another, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head. The shooting was captured on video by a local affiliate of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

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

Recommended from JTA