Photo Credit: Arielinson via Wikimedia
Attorney Yoram Sheftel

As the appeals stage in Elor Azaria’s trial began at a military court in Tel Aviv Wednesday, his attorney, Yoram Sheftel told the court that the Israeli public is united behind his client, who should not have been indicted in the first place.

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for the March, 2016, shooting in Hebron of an Arab stabbing terrorist who had been neutralized.


“We may only be two defense attorneys, but with us are thousands of Israeli supporters calling for his acquittal,” Sheftel told the court, adding: “The appellant’s trial is extremely unusual. The very fact that he was brought to trial stands in stark contrast to the procedures for prosecuting a soldier during military activity– because the army could not exist otherwise.”

This is why the defense, according to Attorney Sheftel, requested to present 17 cases of deadly shootings by security personnel – including the killing of innocent bystanders – where the military prosecution decided not to indict. These include at least one case in which a suspect was shot dead strictly because the shooter felt endangered, absent any tangible evidence.

The military appeals panel of five judges headed by Major General Doron Piles, President of the Military Court of Appeals at the Kirya compound in tel Aviv. There are two military and two civilian judges on the panel as well.

The appeals court has accepted Sheftel’s request that Azaria, who has been demoted to the rank of Private (from Sergeant), will not begin to serve his sentence until the end of the appeal hearing. Sheftel has also requested the court’s permission to submit evidence not in the original trial.

The crux of the defense’s appeal, based on Wednesday’s proceedings, is that the Military Police investigation was conducted in a flawed manner, aiming to reach an indictment at any cost. Attorney Sheftel intends to show investigators had a “tunnel vision,” failing to present true facts for proper prosecution.

Sheftel also accused Azaria’s company commander, Major Tom Na’aman of perjury, which he intends to prove by juxtaposing contradictory statements by the witness to military police investigators. Sheftel also accused another witness, a Corporal M, of perjury, as a result of pressure from the Army.

The prosecution, for its part, is appealing the 18-months sentence as being unusually light for a manslaughter conviction.

Sheftel intends to present as evidence an email exchange between his client’s former defenders and the military prosecution, where the latter state they would only appeal Azaria’s sentence should he appeal the original decision. Sheftel called this decision-making process on the part of the prosecutors “corrupt and criminal.”


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