Azaria Released to Full House Arrest – Except for Shabbos

IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria (C) with his father (R) and lawyer Attorney Yoram Sheftel (L, back to camera) at an appeal to his sentence in a courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv. (Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - As expected, a military court on Monday released IDF soldier Elor Azaria from detention at the IDF base he was serving at to detention at home, until appeals in his case are heard and decided upon. Azaria will be under “full house arrest,” essentially under curfew throughout the day. The one exception: Shabbos morning, when the soldier will be allowed to go to his local shul for tefillos.

One reason for the decision is that as of Thursday, the IDF will no longer be able to keep Azaria on base, where he has been since he was arrested last year in a controversial shooting case, when he shot a terrorist who was prone on the ground in Chevron because he believed the terrorist was not neutralized and posed a threat to other soldiers. Prosecutors took exception to his version of the events in Chevron on Purim 2016, saying that he illegally shot the terrorist who was already neutralized.

Azaria was convicted on charges of manslaughter and conduct unbecoming an IDF soldier, and sentenced in February to 18 months in prison. In addition, he was sentenced to a suspended sentence of one year, and was also demoted from corporal back to private. The court said that it had gone “very easy” on the soldier, as the standard penalty for manslaughter was 20 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought sentences between 3 and 5 years. Both the defense and prosecution have filed appeals, with the former seeking to exonerate the soldier, and the latter claiming the sentence was too lenient.

That he needed to be confined somewhere was clear, the court ruled, saying that it was “unthinkable that a soldier who has been convicted in a case like this should be allowed to walk around freely.” Azaria’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, said that the decision “was expected. There was little chance the court was going to veer from the previous conditions it had set for his being held, although we did try to change its mind. Elor is free, even if his freedom of movement is limited.”