IDF Rejects Azaria Request to Postpone Start of Jail Sentence

YERUSHALAYIM -
IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria. (Flash90)

Military prosecutors have rejected a request by former IDF soldier Elor Azaria to postpone the date of his entry into military prison until IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot decides whether to reduce his jail term or replace it with public service work.

Azaria’s attorneys had made the request for postponement of the sentence after Azaria last week said that he would no longer contest the IDF military court’s sentence of 18 months in jail after his appeal was rejected last month. Instead, Azaria appealed to Eizenkot to reduce his sentence, or to replace it with public service.

Azaria is set to report to prison on Wednesday.

With prosecutors refusing to accept the request, Azaria’s attorneys are now filing it with a special military tribunal that will have the last word on when Azaria begins his sentence. That tribunal is set to discuss the request later Monday or on Tuesday, IDF officials said.

Azaria was convicted on charges of manslaughter and conduct unbecoming an IDF soldier, after shooting at a terrorist in Chevron last Purim morning when the terrorist was neutralized and on the ground after being shot when he tried to stab soldiers.

At his trial, defense attorneys stressed Azaria’s sterling record as a soldier, and the fact that the possibility of a further terror attack — in which the terrorist on the ground might set off a bomb he could have been carrying on his person — justified the shooting, or at least provided reasonable grounds for Azaria’s having acted the way he did. He was 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 to private. The court said it had gone “very easy” on the soldier, as the standard penalty for manslaughter was 20 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought sentences between three and five years.

In his letter to Eizenkot, Azaria wrote that he regretted shooting the prone terrorist. “Had I known then that he was not armed, I would not have shot him. I have been in custody since March 24, 2016. I would also like to make clear that I do not plan to file any more appeals.” Azaria has the option of filing an appeal with the High Court, but he has rejected that option.

“As a result of this incident, my father suffered a stroke and lost his ability to stand and walk. It was only after a great deal of rehabilitation that he is now able to walk, but in a limited manner,” Azaria wrote, adding, “I hereby request that my punishment be reduced or replaced with public service. I wish to return to my normal life and restore my life, and that of my family.”