Days after the defence team for Elor Azarya appealed his manslaughter conviction for the fatal shooting of an unarmed wounded Palestinian, the Israeli general prosecution submitted its own appeal yesterday, demanding a harsher sentence for the Israeli soldier who was sentenced to just 18 months in prison for the killing.
Azarya was filmed committing the execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abdul-Fattah Al-Sharif in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron last year.
Israeli media reported that the prosecution petitioned the Israeli military appeals court to increase the sentence to between 30 and 60 months in prison, from the 18-month sentence handed down last month, amid widespread outrage over its leniency.
- Elor Azarya is the only member of Israeli forces to be charged with killing a Palestinian in 2016.
Even prior to the sentencing, the case had already been denounced as a "show trial" for focusing on the case to distract from a wider culture of impunity for Israeli forces, as Azarya was charged with manslaughter for what was termed by rights groups as an "extrajudicial execution" and by the victim's family as "cold-blooded murder".
According to reports, the argument behind for the prosecution's appeal was that Azarya's sentence was not congruent with the ruling of the judges, who had given a detailed refutation of nearly every claim made by the defence team when they convicted him, and accepted the prosecution's argument that the soldier committed an unjustified revenge killing for the Palestinian's alleged attempted attack.
Meanwhile, last week, the Israeli military court granted Azarya's request to postpone the beginning of his sentence – set to begin on 5 March 5 – until a ruling was made on the appeal filed by his defence against the conviction.
Three of Azarya's four lawyers resigned from his legal team today before the one remaining attorney filed the appeal.
"Eighty per cent of the Zionist nation wants the immediate release of the appellant… the soldier, the son of all of us, from prison to freedom," the appeal reportedly read, referring to widespread support among the Israeli public who view Azarya as a national hero rather than relying on a legal framework to justify the appeal.
While the majority of Israeli politicians favour a presidential pardon for the soldier, Azarya cannot seek a pardon until he exhausts his rights to appeal, starting with the military appeals court and possibly going up to the Israeli Supreme Court, according to Israeli media.