An Israeli military court has postponed the imprisonment of an Israeli soldier, who is given a lenient prison term of 18 months for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank last year.
Elor Azaria’s term was due to start on March 5, but an appeals court on Thursday accepted the defendant’s request to delay the sentence.
“The imprisonment will be postponed until the result of the appeal,” appeals court judge Orly Markman said, noting that the defendant, who was smiling broadly during the appeal session, will be confined to base in the meantime.
Azaria’s attorney Yoram Sheftel, who had lodged the appeal on Wednesday, expressed joy over the ruling and said he can start the appeal within six weeks.
In the petition to the court, the lawyer asked that the date his client is due to start serving his time to be deferred until the end of legal proceedings.
Azaria was sentenced by a military court on February 21 to 18 months in prison plus 12-month on probation. He was demoted to the rank of private as well.
Murder charges were brought against Azaria after video footage, recorded by a Palestinian rights activist, emerged showing him killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil on March 24, 2016.The 21-year-old Palestinian lay on the ground unable to move after Israeli military forces had initially shot and wounded him over an alleged stabbing attack.
Azaria arrived at the scene approximately 11 minutes after the purported assault, cocked his rifle and shot Sharif in the head, killing him.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, Palestinian resistance movements, the victim’s family and the United Nations human rights office have strongly criticized the sentence given to Azaria as “too lenient.”
Rights activists in Israel have also argued that the man should have been prosecuted for murder and face time of up to 20 years in prison.
This is while a number of Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for him to be pardoned.