Attorneys: ‘Shocked’ by IDF Attempt to Push Azaria Not to Appeal

Elor Azaria. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Attorneys for IDF soldier Elor Azaria on Tuesday called a meeting between top IDF brass and family members of Elor Azaria “a shocking development that crosses all red lines and appears to be in violation of the law.” Any attempt to convince the family to lean on Azaria to give up his right to appeal is a bald-faced interference in the legal process and a clear violation of the soldier’s legal rights.

According to Channel Two, the meeting, which took place Monday night, reportedly discussed a variety of options to censure the soldier, who was convicted last week of manslaughter for killing a terrorist who was shot and neutralized after he attacked IDF soldiers with a knife on Purim in Chevron. Azaria claimed that he feared the terrorist had been carrying a bomb that he intended to explode even while he was on the ground.

Among the options was a deal that would forgo jail time for Azaria altogether, IDF sources were quoted as saying. “An appeal could end up sending the soldier to jail for an extended period, and requesting a pardon will require a year or more,” said the source. “The best alternative is to work with the system to lighten his punishment. A deal like that could result in Azaria’s being sentenced to time served in detention over the past half year, with no further jail time.”

Reports of the meeting generated rumors Tuesday that a deal had been made to release Azaria, but military prosecutors stressed that despite the rumors, no deal was offered and none agreed to. “We deny the report on Channel Two that the soldier was offered a deal in which he would receive an easier punishment if the family would promise not to appeal,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said.

In the wake of the many protests over the conviction last week, the IDF is very interested in putting the Azaria story behind it, Channel Two quoted sources as saying. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday that “in light of the many communications about the Elor Azaria case my office has received, I have the following message: The best thing to do for the benefit of this soldier is to remain silent and put an end to the noise and the protests. We need to keep in mind that we are talking about a soldier with an excellent record, who killed a terrorist who tried to murder Jews. We are doing everything we can to preserve the IDF’s values and the welfare of Azaria. All the rest is just harmful noise.”

The IDF spokesperson said that Azaria “is eligible for a clean legal process that is free of pressures. He is being handled by his commanders and is eligible for all the appropriate legal protections. The purpose of the meeting with family members was to advise them of the forms of assistance available to him and to them.”

The sentencing phase of the Azaria trial is set for next week. According to experts, Azaria could be sentenced to as long as 20 years in prison if the court decides to throw the book at him.