IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment last month, appealed on Wednesday against a manslaughter conviction that could have sent him for jail for a maximum 20-year term.
Three of Azaria’s defense attorneys said after the appeal was announced that they were quitting. In a statement, they said he had received a “fantastic and seemingly impossible” sentence, appearing to suggest he should not put it at risk.
A three-judge military court convicted Azaria of manslaughter last month. It rejected his contention that he believed the man still posed a threat, admitting into evidence a video of the incident recorded by a Palestinian rights activist.
Imposing punishment lighter than a three-to-five year sentence requested by the prosecution, the court noted the incident had been Azaria’s first combat experience and that his record had been unblemished.
In the statement announcing their resignation, the three defense lawyers also said that while they believed Azaria never should have been convicted, they had proposed to the soldier and his family that he pursue other options.
Those include a presidential pardon – which cannot be considered while an appeal process is ongoing – or a procedure in which a military general can opt to reduce his sentence.
In the petition to a military appeals court, Azaria’s remaining lawyer asked that the start of his incarceration, on March 5, be deferred until the end of legal proceedings.
Prosecutors, who have yet to decide whether to lodge an appeal for a stiffer sentence, had originally considered charging Azaria with murder. But they said it would have been difficult to meet the legal requirement of showing premeditation.