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Israeli military court orders to release Elor Azarya to house arrest amid appeal

July 17, 2017 2:16 P.M. (Updated: July 18, 2017 3:53 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli military court ordered to release Elor Azarya to house arrest on Monday, amid an ongoing appeal process of the Israeli soldier's 18-month prison sentence for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Palestinian Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif in March 2016. Azarya will also be free to leave home to attend prayer services on the Sabbath with his parents.

Azarya was convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing al-Sharif as the disarmed Palestinian lay severely wounded on the ground in March 2016. Azarya’s defense team appealed both the manslaughter conviction and the 18-month jail sentence for being too harsh, while the Israeli military prosecution has submitted an appeal to increase the sentence.

According to Israeli media reports, Azarya’s military service term is set to end on Thursday, meaning that the soldier will no longer be able to remain confined to a military base. The military prosecution has already agreed that he can move to house arrest, between now and July 30, when his appeal is due to be decided.

Azarya's defense lawyer had reportedly called for a "half house arrest," meaning that Azarya could have left home during daylight hours, which was not granted. However the court did order that Azarya would be free to attend prayer services on the Sabbath with his parents.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has appealed the verdict claiming 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 defense team when they convicted him, and accepted the prosecution’s argument that the soldier committed an unjustified revenge killing.

However, the defense has argued that Azarya has been unfairly targeted and that his sentencing represents a “selective enforcement of the law,” according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Indeed, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented the fact that the problem is not the conduct of a single soldier, but an atmosphere of immunity from punishment for illegally killing Palestinians,” the rights group said in June.

“Responsibility for upholding ethical and legal norms doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of a single 20-year-old soldier, but also on the senior officials who sent him -- and too many others -- the wrong message regarding the use of deadly force.”

Al-Sharif was shot and seriously wounded after allegedly stabbing another Israeli soldier, and after he was left bleeding on the ground for some ten minutes, Azarya shot him 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.

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.”

Following the announcement of the 18-month sentence, the al-Sharif family said they were "not surprised" by the lenient sentence -- noting that the soldier received less prison time than a Palestinian child would for throwing stones.

Azarya was the only member of Israeli forces to be charged with killing a Palestinian in 2016 -- when at least 109 Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli forces and settlers -- according to Human Rights Watch.

According to rights group Yesh Din, of the 186 criminal investigations opened by the Israeli army into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, just four yielded indictments.
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