Israel court yet to rule on jail delay for manslaughter soldier

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Elor Azaria expected to present authorities on Wednesday to begin serving 18-month sentence unless request for delay upheld

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria sits with his mother and father during a hearing at a military court (AFP)
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Monday 7 August 2017 16:11 UTC
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An Israeli court has yet to make a decision regarding a convicted soldier's request to postpone his imprisonment for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian, the army said on Monday.

Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison for manslaughter in a trial that became one of the most divisive in Israel’s history. Azaria had applied on Sunday for a delay in his prison term.

Earlier on Monday AFP quoted an army spokesman saying that Azaria's request had been rejected. A spokeswoman later said that "no decision had yet been made."

Azaria is expected to present himself to the authorities on Wednesday to begin serving his sentence unless his request is upheld.

On July 30, a military court rejected Azaria's appeal against his conviction for manslaughter and upheld the prison term.

The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely online.

It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.

Azaria, who was serving as a 19-year-old army medic at the time, then shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.         

The soldier had claimed he feared Sharif may detonate an explosive belt, but Judges rejected the claim.

The incident had divided opinion in Israel, where one poll showed half of Israeli Jews said any Palestinian attacker should be killed on the spot. Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for Azaria to be pardoned.

Military leaders had strongly condemned the soldier’s actions and called for a tough sentence.

The prosecution had called for a three-to-five year sentence for Azaria, however, imposing a lighter punishment, the court had noted that the Hebron incident had been Azaria’s first combat experience and that his record had been unblemished.

Azaria’s sentencing was deemed “excessively lenient” and “unacceptable” by the United Nations human rights office who said it was “deeply disturbed” by the decision.

The Palestinian government said the term imposed by the court had given Israeli soldiers a "green light" to carry out "executions without fear of real punishment".