Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who killed an unarmed and injured Palestinian, should be freed from prison without delay, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Speaking at the opening of a meeting of the right wing Yisrael Beiteinu political party, Lieberman expressed his support for Azaria’s request for a presidential pardon last week.
“I want to remind you that, in the end, this is a case of an outstanding soldier and a terrorist who tried to kill IDF soldiers. Everyone is aware that both Azaria and his family paid a heavy price.”
Azaria claimed he did not receive a fair trial after he was found guilty of the manslaughter of 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel Al-Fattah Al-Sharif in March 2016 as he lay wounded on the ground.
Azaria shot Al-Sharif in the head, with a number of witnesses quoting him as saying: “This dog is still alive” and “this terrorist deserves to die” before he pulled the trigger.
Lieberman is not the first Israeli politician to express his support for Azaria’s release. At the time of his sentencing in July Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with a group of senior Israeli ministers called for the soldier to be pardoned.
The convicted soldier was also released from prison for a four-day furlough for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year last month. Israeli soldiers are usually only granted furloughs from prison after serving a third of their sentence. Azaria had only begun serving his 18-month sentence one month previously.
Azaria was awarded compensation earlier this month amounting to some $6,900 from the Head of the Manpower Directorate of the Israel Defence Forces; half the amount that is normally paid to soldiers who complete their military service. Azaria only served 18 months of his three year term in the army.
During and after his trial, Azaria has received widespread support from the Israeli public and was labelled a national hero under the slogan “Israel’s son”.