Appeal Begins for Israeli Soldier Convicted of Killing Wounded Palestinian

Published May 3rd, 2017 - 01:00 GMT
Elor Azaria at his trial. (AFP/file)
Elor Azaria at his trial. (AFP/file)

An Israeli military court started to hear appeals Wednesday morning regarding the case of Israeli soldier Elor Azarya, who was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif.

Prior to the sentencing, the case had already been denounced as a “show trial” for focusing on the case to distract from a wider culture of impunity for Israeli forces, as Azarya was charged with manslaughter for what was termed by rights groups as an “extrajudicial execution” and by the victim’s family as “cold-blooded murder.”
Following the announcement of the 18-month sentence, the al-Sharif family said they were "not surprised" about the lenient sentence -- noting that the soldier received less prison time than a Palestinian child would for throwing stones. 
Azarya’s defense team has appealed both the manslaughter conviction and the 18-month jail sentence for being too harsh, while the Israeli military prosecution has submitted an appeal to increase the sentence. 
The argument behind the prosecution's appeal was that Azarya’s sentence was not congruent with the ruling of the judges, who had given a detailed refutation of nearly every claim made by the defense team when they convicted him, and accepted the prosecution’s argument that the soldier committed an unjustified revenge killing.
Al-Sharif was shot and seriously wounded after allegedly stabbing another Israeli soldier, and after he was left bleeding on the ground for some ten minutes, Azarya 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 he pulled the trigger. 
According to Israeli news site Ynet, Azarya’s appeal argued that the judges who sentenced him ignored “a plethora” of evidence in his favor, and that the military’s investigation contained “biased” witnesses that established the suspicion against him, as Israeli commanders at the scene of the shooting gave harsh testimonies against the young soldier, denouncing him for committing an unjustified killing.  
Azarya's attorney also reportedly submitted a request to the appeals court to receive investigation materials of 15 similar cases in order to present them as evidence that support Azarya's innocence.
Azarya was 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 appeal process will begin with the first of two hearings in which the parties will present their cases, a second hearing will be held next week, and a third discussion will be scheduled if necessary, according to Ynet.

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