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Netanyahu calls for Azaria to be pardoned

The Israeli Prime Minister signed a petition calling for the soldier to be granted an amnesty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday signed a petition demanding an Israeli soldier convicted of killing a wounded Palestinian be pardoned.

According to Israeli newspaper Maariv, the petition demands amnesty be granted to Elor Azaria who was sentenced to 18 months in prison earlier this year after he was convicted of the murder of Palestinian Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif at the end of March 2016. Al-Sharif was lying motionless on the ground in the occupied city of Hebron when Azaria walked up to him and shot him at point-blank range.

His sentence was reduced to 14 months in September. Earlier this month, Rivlin rejected Azaria's request for a pardon. According to a statement released by his office: "The president has taken into account the offenses you committed and their circumstances… and he has decided to reject the request." Maariv reported that Rivlin would consider the petition if he received it officially, nothing that it would be necessary to wait six months before considering a new request for amnesty.

Rivlin has come under intense criticism as a result of his decision with an online campaign being launched depicting him in a Palestinian headdress. Police opened investigations into possible cases of incitement.

Read: Rabbi calls for 'finishing off' wounded Palestinians

Many prominent Israeli figures had supported Azaria's appeal, including Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman who said last month that the soldier should be freed from prison without delay. 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.

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".

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