Family of Hebron shooter Azaria implore Israel's parliament to back pardon
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
The parents of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Elor Azaria, who was last month sentenced to an 18-month prison term after being convicted of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a Palestinian terrorist last year, pleaded with Israeli lawmakers on Thursday to back a pardon for their son.
Azaria's family arrived at Israel's Knesset, hosted by Likud-party MK Nava Boker, and presented what they said was a "true account" of the incident in an attempt to convince lawmakers to press President Reuven Rivlin to grant Azaria a pardon.
Azaria, 21, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 18-months in prison after he was caught on film last March shooting Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fattah al-Sharif as he lay prone and immobilized on the ground after perpetrating a stabbing attack against Israeli soldiers in the flashpoint city of Hebron.
Azaria's conviction has deeply divided Israeli public opinion between those who believe he was wrongly tried and those who say the conviction was the right and proper consequence of his actions.
In a rare statement to the media before entering the Knesset building, Azaria's mother Oshara said that her son "was sent to serve the state and I demand he be returned to me."
Elor's father Charlie Azaria said he hoped their visit to the Knesset would "show the truth to all the Knesset members" and that they would back clearing their son's prison sentence.
"I am also here to make a direct call today to President Reuven Rivlin," Charlie Azaria said, "Sir, you have said on a number of occasions that the IDF is the people’s army and the people’s army cannot go against the people. Today we ask you to free Elor because that is the will of the people. He is a soldier, a boy who is serving the country and protecting all the citizens of the state of Israel."
Rivlin has indicated that he would not consider a pardon until all legal appeals have been processed.
"In accordance with standard practice regarding requests for pardons on this or any case, requests for pardons are dealt with when submitted by the applicant themselves, or by one with power of attorney, or an immediate relative, following a conclusive judicial ruling," Rivlin's office said in a statement following the January verdict.
Lawyers representing Azaria filed an appeal of his manslaughter conviction earlier this month. The appeal was filed at the request of the soldier's family against the attorneys' advice, and three of lawyers representing the soldier quit the defense shortly thereafter.
Military prosecutors, who had requested a three-to-five year prison term, also filed an appeal against the "lenient" 18-month prison sentence, arguing that it "significantly deviates" from what was expected given the seriousness of the offense and the judges' harsh and critical ruling in the case.
According to a survey conducted by Israel's Channel 2 in January, some 67 percent of Israelis said they supported clemency for Azaria, while 19 percent did not.
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