YNET – A military appeals court granted IDF soldier Elor Azaria’s request on Thursday afternoon to postpone the beginning of his 18-months sentence until a ruling is made on his appeal. Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter after shooting dead a seriously wounded Palestinian in Hebron, was due to start serving his sentence at Prison 6 in Atlit on Sunday.
The postponement was approved after the military prosecution withdrew its objection. Azaria will remain under open detention at his unit’s base, with the same conditions he’s had so far.
During the court hearing, Judge Orly Markman noted that Azaria “has proven he poses no danger to the public and that there’s no fear he would try to escape justice.”
Initially, the prosecution objected to request, with prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weisman presenting a Supreme Court case in which it was determined that apart from special circumstances, a person who is given a prison sentence must begin serving it immediately.
“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,” Weisman said.
Yoram Sheftel, Azaria’s new lawyer, claimed that “nine out of ten soldiers want (Azaria) to be released. There’s a massive gap between the verdict and what millions of Jews in the State of Israel think.”
The court ordered Sheftel to file his full appeal on Sunday, while it was determined that a date for the appeal hearing will be set as soon as possible.
Sheftel remained the only lawyer on Azaria’s defense team on Wednesday after the three other lawyers—Eyal Besserglick, Ilan Katz and Karmit Scheiber—resigned, explaining they have reached “the maximum in this instance” and that they would be employing “alternative channels for the good of the soldier.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, Sheftel attacked the Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek, and claimed that Afek “threateningly blackmailed” Sgt. Elor Azaria’s defense team.
Adding to this claim, the soldier’s father, Charlie Azaria said, “They told me if we appeal, the IDF will appeal. They are trying to scare the family, but my fight will continue, because this is the struggle of every parent. I won’t give up.”
Following the hearing, Azaria thanked Sheftel for his representation. “I hope the spirit of justice that was present today at the hearing continues at the appeal, not like the first proceeding.”
Asked whether or not he was disappointed with his defense attorneys who resigned, Azaria said, “I thank our attorneys who have been with us. Two days before the appeal, they did not agree to stay on with the defense team and their considerations. We have Sheftel who is representing us honorably.”
The Military Advocate General has not yet announced whether or not they plan to appeal the sentence, which they deem as lenient.
Following the decision to delay the start of sentencing, Sheftel said, “I am relishing the decision and I have to say that there is no achievement here, because in the State of Israel today, an accused person who was sentenced to 18 months’ incarceration and submitted an appeal is always released until a ruling on the appeal. 15 years is the normal practice in the courts.
“There is no unusual decision here. What is unusual is the attempt by the prosecution to send Elor, an outstanding soldier, to prison right here, right now. I am pleased that in light of the comments of the court, the prosecution has finally understood that there is no room here to insist on immediate imprisonment.”