Court Rebuffs Azaria Lawyers on Alleged Prosecution Tampering

YERUSHALAYIM -
Sgt. Elor Azaria arrives for a court hearing at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. (Flash90)

The military court that convicted Sgt. Elor Azaria of manslaughter in the shooting of a terrorist who had been neutralized, began sentencing hearings on Tuesday.

At the opening of proceedings, the soldier’s defense attorneys made a futile attempt to have the verdict overturned, citing improper conduct by the prosecution. They asked the court to summon the Kfir Brigade commander Col. Guy Hazut, who allegedly offered a more lenient sentence if Azaria would express regret for his actions in the incident in Chevron on March 24, 2015. They argued that Hazut’s interference voided the conviction.

However, the judges appeared taken aback by the request, and rejected it outright. Apparently, no deal was struck with the prosecution, which will reportedly seek a three-to-five-year jail sentence. The crime is punishable by a maximum 20-year sentence.

Subsequently, the court heard an emotional appeal from Charlie Azaria, the soldier’s father, who described the disastrous impact of the trial on his family.

“Our family has collapsed,” he told the court in tears. “I had a stroke. My brother, Elor’s godfather, suffered two heart attacks during this saga. One of my daughters stopped her studies at medical school to help at home. For ten months not a single commander approached me; they’ve abandoned the boy. I’ve received threats that Hamas wants to eliminate Elor, and after the verdict we received threats that only the Palestinians will decide his verdict and kill him.

“The IDF cast aside my son. The IDF isn’t give us any attention. The punishment that Elor received is enough. Ten months we have been suffering. This is mental and physical abuse of the family.”

Other character witnesses are being called for the defense in this phase, and the soldier himself will be allowed to take the stand and have his say.