IDF Soldier on Trial, Attorney, Accuse Officers of Lying and Distortion

Sgt. Elior Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Chevron, seen after a military court hearing in Jaffa on Sunday, his first day of cross-examination. (Flash90)
Sgt. Elior Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Chevron, seen after a military court hearing in Jaffa on Sunday, his first day of cross-examination.
(Flash90)

Ilan Erenbach

YERUSHALAYIM – In a dramatic development in his trial for manslaughter, Sgt. Elor Azaria accused his commanding officers of lying to the military court about the incident in which he killed a Palestinian terrorist who had been incapacitated, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.

During his cross-examination, Azaria told the court that the officers had deliberately omitted important information in their testimonies. Azaria alleged that his company commander, Maj. Tom Na’aman, had omitted key facts and “lied on a few points.”

Na’aman has given damaging testimony against Azaria, disputing the latter’s claim that he thought the terrorist, who was lying on the ground when Azaria shot him, still might have posed a danger to the soldiers standing nearby.

He testified that the man was disarmed and posed no threat, and that after shooting him, Azaria told Na’aman: “This terrorist was alive and he had to die.”

Meanwhile, controversy swirled around the trial outside the courtroom. Ilan Katz, attorney for the defense, charged to Arutz Sheva that politicians have exploited his client’s plight, trying to take a free “ride on this case.”

“It’s the kind [of case] that somebody in the government or somebody in the opposition decided to make a political case. But once this case went on, all of the politicians from the left-wing and right-wing took a kind of ride on this case, and every one of the politicians tried to take advantage of it.”

But Katz promised he will bring ranking IDF officers to testify on behalf of Azaria.

“As you can see, it is a very long trial. Many high-ranking officers already gave their testimony in the court. We will bring higher-ranking officers, [including] generals as well as many brigadier generals and other high-ranking officers to show that this case is a political case, that this case has only one purpose: to take the [bright] lights [of criticism] from the high-ranking officers and to put it only on the head of the soldier.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman echoed Katz’s criticism on Monday, saying that politicians should let the military court do its job and not “decide [Azaria’s] fate” on their own.

“The political echelon, and especially the defense minister, must not be allowed to decide the fate of the soldier, all the more so before the legal process has ended,” he said in an apparent reference to comments made by his predecessor Moshe Yaalon, who made pre-trial comments indicating he believed Azaria to be guilty.

Azaria will face questioning by the prosecution for a third day on Tuesday.