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Posts

The Azaria show trial

This posting has these items:
1) Al Jazeera: Elor Azaria gets 18 months for killing Palestinian;
2) Ma’an: Elor Azarya sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for killing wounded Palestinian, lenient sentence given because of ‘terror’ context;
3) Guardian: Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months for killing injured Palestinian attacker, Peter Beaumont identifies the military/rightwing split;
4) JPost: Azaria supporters vow to fight, protest Hebron shooter’s sentencing, the temperate view from the right;


Azaria, right, beams after learning he will spend 18 months in prison for breaking the rules of engagement. As at his trial, no photo of Azaria appears in which he is not being embraced by one or members of his family; he is the nation’s child-man. Photo by EPA

Elor Azaria gets 18 months for killing Palestinian

Elor Azaria shot and killed Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif as he lay on the ground incapacitated after being gunned down.

By Al Jazeera
February 21, 2017

An Israeli soldier who shot and killed a wounded Palestinian, who was incapacitated having already been shot, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for manslaughter.

Judge Maya Heller of the military court in Tel Aviv delivered the sentencing on Tuesday in a case that has stoked passions, debate and protest.

Analysts had expected Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter one month earlier, to be jailed for fewer than the maximum sentence of 20 years for killing Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif.

“This was at the lower end of what the prosecution had asked for when they requested that Azaria would serve between three and five years,” said Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Tel Aviv.

In her statement, Heller claimed that there were mitigating factors to the killing, which she said took place in “hostile territory”.

While she said that Azaria’s family “suffered” as a result of the trial, she noted that Azaria has not expressed remorse.

The March 24 shooting, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, was filmed by activists from the Israeli B’Tselem human rights group.

That video shows Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian.

Azaria, a 20-year-old combat medic, then delivers the fatal blow, shooting him again in the head without any provocation.

According to the army, Sharif had stabbed and wounded another soldier.

It was unclear whether Azaria’s family would follow up on a promise to appeal against a decision to imprison the soldier for more than 10 months.

Issa Amro, director of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements activist group, told Al Jazeera that a sentence of 18 months in jail “is not proportionate with what [Azaria] did”.

“We are talking about a war criminal, according to international law,” he said, adding that it was likely Azaria would receive a pardon from the government.

“I believe Azaria was following orders to execute Palestinians, and leave them bleeding until they pass away,” he said. “This is what [Israeli soldiers] did in many cases in Hebron, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah. Israeli soldiers are not held to account. I’ve just seen soldiers celebrating Azaria getting 18 months.”

‘Extrajudicial killings’

The case raised questions about how Israeli soldiers deal with perceived threats by Palestinians.

Shortly after the shooting, the Palestinian leadership demanded the United Nations investigate what rights groups have called Israel’s “extrajudicial killings”.

Sharif’s father, Yusri, has previously said Azaria deserves a life sentence.

According to a survey in August by the Israel Democracy Institute, 65 percent of the Jewish public supported Azaria and his claim of self-defence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Israeli politicians had thrown their weight behind Azaria, calling for the soldier to be pardoned.

Since October 2015, Israeli soldiers and settlers have been responsible for the killing of at least 244 Palestinians, including unarmed demonstrators, bystanders and alleged attackers in an upsurge in violence.

Thirty-six Israelis have also been killed in mostly stabbing and shooting incidents carried out by Palestinians.




The father and mother of Palestinian Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, who was shot dead as he lay on the ground by Elor Azaria, watch on television the verdict of Azaria, Hebron, Feb. 21, 2017. Photo by Hazem Bader/AFP

Elor Azarya sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for killing wounded Palestinian

By Ma’an news
February 21, 2017

BETHLEHEM — After being found guilty of manslaughter for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, 20-year-old Israeli soldier Elor Azarya was sentenced to 18 months in prison, a year’s probation, and a demotion in his military rank on Tuesday.

The prosecution had sought a three- to five-year prison sentence for the killing, with the maximum sentence for manslaughter being 20 years in prison.

The sentence was scheduled to begin on March 5, though Azarya’s defence team said it would submit an appeal to block the sentence, saying it had a “good chance” and “nothing to lose,” according to reports from Israeli media from inside the courtroom.

After al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, also 21, allegedly carried out a stabbing attack on another soldier in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron last March, al-Qasrawi was fatally shot, while al-Sharif was shot and left severely wounded on the ground for several minutes before Azarya stepped forward and shot him in the head, with a number of witnesses quoting him as saying “This dog is still alive” and “This terrorist deserves to die” before pulling the trigger.

Leading up to the announcement of the sentence, the panel of three judges weighed the “complexity” and “competing values” of the case; while they agreed that Azarya acted with the intent to kill and not because he felt threatened, a two-judge majority believed the “unique post-terror attack” atmosphere should work heavily in his favour.

Judges called for leniency due to the fact that it was Azarya’s first time in a “terror situation,” and also noted the alleged mismanagement of the scene by Israeli commanders at the scene, who later went on to give harsh testimonies against the young soldier.

The judges said that the prosecution had successfully argued that Azarya had failed to show regret throughout the trial, while Azarya also violated the so-called purity of arms value enshrined in the Israeli army’s ethical code.

They also said that the months Azarya has spent in open detention on an Israeli military base would not be deducted from his sentence, but would be taken into account “on some level.”

The lenient sentence came after judges gave a wholesale endorsement of the prosecution’s arguments against Azarya while refuting nearly every claim presented by the defence when he was convicted in January.

At the time of the conviction, Palestinian leadership called the case a “show trial” for handing down a lenient manslaughter conviction for the soldier, while focusing on the case to distract from a wider culture of impunity for Israeli forces.

Al-Sharif’s family has vowed to take the case to the International Criminal Court, expressing outrage that the “murderer” of their son was convicted with manslaughter, saying they would “expose the military court as a farce, just as other cases of criminal acts carried out by Israeli forces and settlers against our people.”

Nevertheless, Azarya’s defence team has attempted to reverse the manslaughter charges deemed too harsh, while the young Israeli army medic has garnered widespread support among the Israeli public under a vocal and at times violent solidarity campaign that dubbed Azarya “everyone’s son.”

The Palestinian activist who captured the footage of the shooting has meanwhile received hundreds of death threats, and his house has been surrounded and attacked by Israeli settlers multiple times.


Photo by Reuters

Some 67 percent of Israelis said they supported a presidential pardon for committing what has been branded an extrajudicial execution by the United Nations and rights groups.

On Tuesday, calls for a pardon were reiterated by Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett who said that “Israel’s security demands he be pardoned. Elor was sent to protect Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price.”

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said it was a “sad” and “difficult” day, adding that “Elor should not sit a single day in prison beyond the time he has already served.”

Commentators have argued that the national debate over the case has laid bare a dim reality regarding where Israelis stand on the human rights of Palestinians.

Azarya is the only member of Israeli forces to be charged with killing a Palestinian in 2016 –when at least 109 Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli forces and settlers — according to Human Rights Watch.

According to rights group Yesh Din, of the 186 criminal investigations opened by the Israeli army into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, just four yielded indictments.

The last time an Israeli soldier was convicted of manslaughter took place in 2003, according to Times of Israel, when Taysir Heib shot and mortally wounded British activist and photographer Tom Hurndall in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, a report released by Human Rights Watch days before Azarya was convicted documented “numerous statements” made by senior Israeli politicians and religious figures “calling on police and soldiers to shoot to kill suspected attackers, irrespective of whether lethal force is actually strictly necessary to protect life.”

HRW noted that Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy has received widespread support among Israeli citizens, citing a 2016 poll by the Israel Democracy Institute which found that 47 percent of Jewish Israelis supported the sentiment that “any Palestinian who carries out a terror attack against Jews should be killed on the spot, even if he has been captured and clearly does not pose a threat.”



Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months for killing injured Palestinian attacker

Elor Azaria’s legal team to appeal against sentence after trial that exposed deep divisions between military and rightwing nationalists

By Peter Beaumont, The Guardian
February 21, 2017

An Israeli military medic who was captured on camera killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker last year has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Elor Azaria’s sentence was imposed by a panel of three judges sitting in a military court in Tel Aviv. Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of between three and five years, while Azaria himself had asked the court to be “merciful” and sentence him to open detention.

The shooting on 24 March last year, captured on video by a Palestinian human rights activist, showed Azaria, 21, killing the badly wounded and immobile Abdul Fatah al-Sharif.

Presiding judge Maya Heller said the judges had found that Azaria’s actions had seriously harmed the values of Israeli society as a whole, as well as violating the “purity of arms” of the Israeli military’s ethical code.

The killing, which made international headlines, took place as other soldiers walked around the wounded Sharif, who had already been shot and badly injured during a knife attack on Israeli soldiers near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Intense interest in the case was fuelled in part by it being a rare instance of an Israeli serviceman being charged for violence against a Palestinian, and it was seen as a test of Israeli military justice.

Passing the sentence, which Israeli media commentators described as lenient, the court said Azaria had not expressed regret for his crime, though it noted that his army record had been unblemished up until the shooting and that his arrest had caused his family deep distress.

The sentence is unlikely to end the affair, as Azaria’s legal team had already pledged to appeal against the guilty verdict. The soldier’s legal team on Tuesday asked for the beginning of the jail sentence to be postponed until an appeal could be heard.

As Azaria arrived at the court with family members before the sentencing, his father Charlie asked supporters, who came to protest at the hearing, to remain calm.

Initially prosecutors had called for Azaria to be charged with murder, but instead settled on a lesser charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Last month’s conviction deeply divided Israel, where military service is compulsory and support for young soldiers is widespread.

The verdict against Azaria was seen as a victory for commanders seeking to preserve a code of ethics.

A number of prominent Israeli politicians, including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, have called for Azaria to be pardoned. Immediately after the guilty verdict, education minister and far-right Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett described the trial as politically “contaminated from the beginning”.

The discussion at the heart of the case was whether Azaria was justified in killing Sharif; judges ruled last month he had acted unlawfully.

Prosecutors argued Azaria’s motive was expressed in comments overheard by witnesses: that Sharif “deserved to die” for wounding a comrade. The court accepted this account, noting that the words carried “serious significance” in its ruling.

Human Rights Watch said: “Sending Elor Azaria to prison for his crime sends an important message about reigning in excessive use of force.

“But senior Israeli officials should also repudiate the shoot-to-kill rhetoric that too many of them have promoted, even when there is no imminent threat of death. Pardoning Azaria or reducing his punishment would only encourage impunity for unlawfully taking the life of another person.”




Right-wing Politicians Call to Pardon Israeli Soldier for Deadly Shooting of Palestinian Attacker

Only President Rivlin could pardon Azaria, after a potentially lengthy process including political opinions from several other officials.

Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury, Haaretz premium
February 21, 2017

Right-wing politicians reacted on Tuesday to the 1.5-year prison sentence handed to Israeli soldier Elor Azaria for killing a wounded and immobilized Palestinian attacker, saying that he should be pardoned.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett called for the pardon of Elor Azaria. “Israel’s security demands he be pardoned. Elor was sent to protest Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev said it was a “sad” and “difficult” day, adding that “Elor should not sit a single day in prison beyond the time he has already served.” She blasted the sentence as a “continuation of the field court-martial that it was the this trial,” which she said should not have taken place as a criminal proceeding. “But as we have reached this difficult day, I ask the IDF chief of staff to pardon Elor.”

However, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman fell short of calling for a pardon, and said instead that everyone must respect the verdict and the sentence, adding “that the army must also support Azaria and his family.” The defence minister said that “on the one hand there is an excellent soldier, on the other a terrorist who came to kill Jews, and we need to take both of these into account.”

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in May, 2016, after the Palestinian had attacked Israeli soldiers who shot and wounded him.

To be considered for a pardon, Azaria will have to submit a detailed request to the president. In addition, before the president makes his decision, the IDF chief of staff, the chief military prosecutor, the head of the military personnel directorate and the defence minister would have to submit their legal opinions, a process that may take some time. President Reuven Rivlin said in the past that “we have the best commanders, a standout chief of staff, and we need to listen to them and accept their decisions.”

Interior Ministry Arye Dery also responded to the ruling, saying “Azaria is worthy of a pardon to put his life back in order and to put this divisive incident that tears all of us up behind him.”

From the other side of the political aisle, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), said that, “The sentence doesn’t reflect the severity of the act and it sends a hard message that the blood of a Palestinian is worthless. Azaria’s case is not an isolated incident, but part of a larger phenomenon in the army supported by polticians.”

Jabareen said that he had asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit a month ago to open an investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his comments supporting a pardon for Azaria. “I stressed that Netanyahu’s comments create suspicion of obstruction of justice.”

Opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog said Azaria was a “victim of impossible diplomatic circumstances. The government, defence minister, IDF and defence officials must now work to prevent the next such incident.”

MK Yair Lapid, who heads the centrists Yesh Atid party, said politicians should not intervene in the military court’s proceedings and voiced his support for the IDF chief of staff and the army court, both of which have been criticized by Azaria supporters, sparking fears of violence.



Nationalist supporters of Sgt. Elor Azaria react outside the Israeli military court during his sentencing in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his deadly shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron, capping a nearly year-long saga that has deeply divided the country. The sentence, which included one year probation and a demotion in rank, was lighter than expected. Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of three to five years. Caption and photo by from Daily Mail. Photo by Oded Balilty/ AP

Azaria supporters vow to fight, protest Hebron shooter’s sentencing

“We are not going to swallow this. We are going to flip the government”
By Eliyahu Kamisher, J Post
February 21, 2017
Pardon him!” erupted from protesters outside a Tel Aviv military court on Tuesday where IDF solider Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in jail for killing Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in March 2015, as he lay immobilized in a Hebron street.“His life is ruined!” said Sigal Cohen, 48, who was protesting in support of Azaria. “This boy is a solider, who was doing his job. He is our son, every mother should feel that. We are not going to swallow this. We are going to flip the government.”

Azaria’s defence has vowed to appeal the ruling, and had previously urged the court to delay the beginning of the sentence until an appeal is submitted. Azaria’s representation requested 15 days to submit the main claims of an appeal.

Around 100 protesters gathered to support Azaria and once the court announced the sentence, a bit after 1 p.m., they vowed to continue to seek Azaria’s release. “We are here to fight until Azaria is returned home,” one man said.

Others criticized the fact that Azaria was tried in military court, arguing that he should have only been disciplined by his superiors.

“In our opinion the court’s decision is a fabrication,” remarked Shaptai Oz, “[Former Defence Minister] Ya’alon is to blame for when he came out against Azaria.”

Among the protesters some chanted “death to terrorists!” and “Elor is a hero!”.

Ofir Pinhassi from Ramat Gan wore a Donald Trump mask, and requested the new US president to intervene. “Trump is a fighter! a great fighter,” Pinhassi said.

Tuesday’s protest stood in contrast to the protests during the conviction of Azaria in January, which were bigger and witnessed clashes with the police.

Instead protesters were generally calm, while chanting and expressing their anger. Singer Ariel Zilber even wrote a song especially for Azaria, which he sung to the crowd. “Elor the hero,” he sung to the clapping crowd, “Do not give up hope.”

Before the sentencing was reached, Sigal Cohen a mother of six was arguing with a man who said “a good Arab is a dead Arab”. Cohen disagreed stating that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must live together in Israel. However, they did agree on one thing: when Cohen’s son enters the IDF this October, “I’m going to tell him to shoot to kill,” she said.

Azaria’s defence has vowed to appeal the ruling, and had previously urged the court to delay the beginning of the sentence until an appeal is submitted. Azaria’s representation requested 15 days to submit the main claims of an appeal.

Around 100 protesters gathered to support Azaria and once the court announced the sentence, a bit after 1 p.m., they vowed to continue to seek Azaria’s release. “We are here to fight until Azaria is returned home,” one man said.

Others criticized the fact that Azaria was tried in military court, arguing that he should have only been disciplined by his superiors.

“In our opinion the court’s decision is a fabrication,” remarked Shaptai Oz, “[Former Defense Minister] Ya’alon is to blame for when he came out against Azaria.”

Protests outside sentencing hearing for Elor Azaria (Reuters)

Among the protesters some chanted “death to terrorists!” and “Elor is a hero!”.

Ofir Pinhassi from Ramat Gan wore a Donald Trump mask, and requested the new US president to intervene. “Trump is a fighter! a great fighter,” Pinhassi said.

Tuesday’s protest stood in contrast to the protests during the conviction of Azaria in January, which were bigger and witnessed clashes with the police.

Instead protesters were generally calm, while chanting and expressing their anger. Singer Ariel Zilber even wrote a song especially for Azaria, which he sung to the crowd. “Elor the hero,” he sung to the clapping crowd, “Do not give up hope.”

Before the sentencing was reached, Sigal Cohen a mother of six was arguing with a man who said “a good Arab is a dead Arab”. Cohen disagreed stating that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must live together in Israel. However, they did agree on one thing: when Cohen’s son enters the IDF this October, “I’m going to tell him to shoot to kill,” she said.


Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother as his father stands nearby, at the start of is sentencing hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv, Israel February 21, 2017. Photo by Reuters

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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