Israeli court sentences soldier Elor Azaria to 18 months for killing Palestinian | News | DW | 21.02.2017
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Israeli court sentences soldier Elor Azaria to 18 months for killing Palestinian

A military court has sentenced Israeli soldier Elor Azaria to 18 months in prison for the killing of a wounded Palestinian assailant. The case has divided the nation.

Sergeant Elor Azaria had been convicted of manslaughter in January in a case that shook Israel. Charged with shooting dead a Palestinian assailant who was lying on the ground with injuries, Azaria has now been sentenced to 18 months in prison - although the maximum sentence in a similar case could carry up to 20 years. 

Prosecutors had asked that Azaria be sentenced on to 3-5 years in prison. His defense attorneys meanwhile insisted he be freed.

Despite the damning video evidence and a number of army leaders condemning the killing, many Israelis continued to express their support for the soldier throughout the trial and tried to push for a sympathetic outcome. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the young soldier's father during the case to offer his sympathies despite the fact that the court said Azaria had not expressed any regret for his crime.

The Palestinian foreign ministry has meanwhile dismissed the proceedings as a "mock trial" all along; Palestinians called for a life term in the divisive case. Some Israeli media commentators meanwhile also described the sentence as "lenient."

The sentencing of the 20-year-old Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier was delayed after protests broke out following the verdict. Dozens of the soldier's supporters were also gathered outside the court throughout the sentencing.

Video evidence

Video footage of the incident on March 24, 2016, was leaked online, leading to Azaria's eventual arrest and trial. Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, had stabbed and mortally wounded a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron, sustaining injuries during the attack. Azaria shot al-Sharif in the head instead of arresting the incapacitated attacker.

During the proceedings, Azaria's lawyers argued that their client may have thought al-Sharif could be wearing a suicide belt, although he had already been checked for explosives. The three-judge panel, however, ruled that there was no reason for Azaria to open fire since al-Sharif was posing no threat.

Azaria, who was 19 years old when the incident occurred, was performing his compulsory military duty at the time and is not a professional in the military forces.

It was not immediately clear if Azaria's lawyers, who had said after the verdict that they intended to appeal his conviction, would still proceed to do so.

ss/se (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)