Former IDF sergeant Elor Azaria, sentenced to prison for the killing of a neutralized Palestinian terrorist last year in Chevron, appealed to President Reuven Rivlin for a pardon on Thursday.
Azaria’s 18-month sentence for manslaughter was reduced to 14 months by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot in September; but the president, who said he would consider the case after Eisenkot, has authority to reduce it further or release him immediately.
In his request to Rivlin, Azaria contended that he did not receive a fair trial.
“Unfortunately, I don’t feel that I was given a fair trial. Nothing will change that feeling,” Azaria wrote, apparently referring to public statements made by then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that denounced him even before his case had come to trial.
Addressing the question of lack of remorse, “I read and hear the reactions to my decision not to express remorse for shooting the terrorist,” Azaria wrote to Rivlin in a text published on Ynet. “That is inaccurate: Had I known for certain, in those tense seconds on the scene, that the terrorist was not carrying a bomb — I wouldn’t have shot (him), clear and simple. Therefore, and only in hindsight, shooting the terrorist was an operational mistake.”
In his ruling, Eisenkot noted that the soldier had not expressed remorse, and apparently did not feel that Azaria’s explanation, the same as he sent to Rivlin on Thursday, was sufficient.
Despite his claim that he did not get a fair trial, he said that he accepted the court’s ruling:
“The trial is behind us, Mr. President. I accepted the judgment. I’m sitting in prison, far from my family, isolated from the world. Believe me, I am sitting and thinking of the circumstances: An Israeli soldier whose freedom was taken from him because he acted against the evildoers who came to shed Jewish blood.
“We would never again be the same Azaria family from Ramla,” he continued. “I believe we’ve been punished harshly, even without me serving the entire sentence given to me. This is the time for mercy. I wish to return to my family, to help mend what has been broken, to help my parents return to their former lives and to try to rehabilitate myself after this difficult experience that befell us because of my decision to serve my country, my homeland, faithfully.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett asked Rivlin and asked him to respond favorably to the pardon request.
“Elor was sent to a dangerous region in which there was an attempt to murder Jews. For a long time already, Elor and his family have suffered heavily. Besides the important lesson of purity of arms, it is not less important to impart out backing for soldiers facing terror. The correct and ethical act would be to give him an immediate pardon,” said Bennett, according to Arutz Sheva.