Israeli soldier could serve five years for killing Palestinian

Israeli soldier could serve five years for killing Palestinian
An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian may only serve up to five years in prison, Israel's prosecution said during a trial that divided Israel.
2 min read
01 February, 2017
Azaria's tense trial divided Israel [AFP]

An Israeli military prosecutor sought a prison sentence of three to five years for an Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian as he lay on the ground, authorities said on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Nadav Weisman said Elor Azaria, 20, who was convicted this month of manslaughter in a military court, should not serve more than five years despite killing an injured Abdul Fatah al-Sharif.

"We believe the appropriate sentence for the accused should not be less than three years and not more than five years," Weisman said during a court hearing in Tel Aviv.

The 24 March shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video and spread widely online before the trial deeply divided Israel.

It showed Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after allegedly attacking an Israeli soldier, according to the Israeli military.

Azaria then shoots him again in the head without any apparent provocation.

Convicting him of manslaughter on 4 January after a month-long trial, a three-judge panel ruled there was no reason for Azaria to open fire since the Palestinian was posing no threat.

Judge Colonel Maya Heller called his testimony "evolving and evasive".

"His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die," she said, referring to the Palestinian.

Azaria, who also has French nationality, faces up to 20 years in prison.

On Tuesday the prosecutor said Azaria "acted deliberately, he used his weapon to punish, he killed a person, even if it was a terrorist".

Colonel Gay Hazut, who formerly commanded the unit in which Azaria was serving, said he had "committed something serious and should be punished".

"But," he added, "I do not think he should spend 20 years or even 10 years in prison."

The case has sparked political tensions across the state.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history, has called for him to be pardoned.

Right-wing ministers have defended Azaria despite top army brass condemning his actions in an extraordinary public rift between politicians and the military.