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Israel postpones prison sentence of soldier who shot wounded Palestinian

Moments before shooting his victim, the soldier said: "This dog is still alive"

An Israeli military court yesterday granted the request of Israeli soldier Elor Azarya – who was convicted last month of manslaughter for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abdul-Fattah Al-Sharif – to postpone the beginning of his 18-month sentence until a ruling is made on his appeal, according to Israeli news website Ynet.

According to Ynet, Azarya was set to start his sentence on Sunday but he will now remain under “open detention” at his unit’s base, similar to the months he has already spent in open detention.

The Israeli site quoted the judge as saying during the hearing that Azarya “has proven he poses no danger to the public and that there’s no fear he would try to escape justice.”

Though the prosecution initially objected to Azarya’s request, saying “the defendant was convicted of manslaughter, carried out an intentional killing, was motivated by the desire for revenge, broke army orders, violated the army’s values,” it eventually dropped its objection.

Azarya’s lawyer Yoram Sheftel claimed that “nine out of ten soldiers” want Azarya to be released, and went on to note the “massive gap” between the guilty verdict and what “millions of Jews in the state of Israel think”.

Ynet added that the court ordered Azarya’s lawyer to file the full appeal on Sunday, and that a date for the appeal hearing “will be set as soon as possible”.

A show trial

Members of Al-Sharif’s family and Palestinian leadership have called the case a “show trial” as charges against him were reduced from murder to manslaughter and he was subsequently handed a lenient jail term.

There have also been calls that the trial is taking the spotlight away from the general culture of impunity issued to Israeli soldiers who commit crimes against Palestinians.

Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Al-Sharif saying after he was handed his sentence: “From the onset we knew this was a show trial that will not do us justice. Even though the soldier was caught on video and it is clear that this is a cold blooded execution, he was convicted only of manslaughter, not murder, and the prosecution asked for only a light sentence of three years. The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.”

Al-Sharif’s family has vowed to take the case to the International Criminal Court.

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