Release Date of May 10 Set for Elor Azaria

Elor Azaria in a military court in Jaffa. (Flash90, File)

Former IDF soldier Elor Azaria will be spending Pesach in prison, after a military parole board said Monday that he would be released after serving two thirds of his term – on May 10th. As such, the board acceded to conditions set by military prosecutors, who had rejected his request to be released before Pesach – but had said that they would not object to the board’s knocking a third off his sentence.

Azaria was convicted last February on charges of manslaughter and conduct unbecoming an IDF soldier, after shooting at a terrorist in Chevron on Purim 2016, when the terrorist was neutralized and on the ground, after he had been 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 who was on the ground might set off a bomb that 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.

The court rejected those arguments, sentencing the soldier to 18 months in military prison, and on appeal reducing the sentence by four months. The decision Monday came after a hearing last week, in which Azaria expressed remorse for his actions. Azaria told the board that he truly believed that he had shot a terrorist who posed an immediate threat to his fellow soldiers. However, “if I knew then what I know now, I would have acted differently,” he said. The comments did not impress prosecutors, who told the board that they were “willing to consider releasing Azaria after two thirds of his sentence is complete, but not before that.” Azaria and his attorney Yoram Sheftel said that the soldier’s imprisonment was “an open wound for the family and for all Israelis. There has never been a case like this in the country’s history.”