(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) A military court ruled Wednesday that Israel Defense Forces Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot an immobilized terrorist last March during a security incident in Hebron, is guilty of manslaughter and of conduct unbecoming. Defense attorneys Eyal Besserglick and Ilan Katz immediately said they would appeal the verdict.
Azaria's trial has been one of the most polarizing affairs Israel has seen in recent years. The facts of the case were never disputed as the incident was caught on tape and due to Azaria's own admission that he shot the unconscious terrorist. As a result, the trial hinged on the question of whether Azaria's account of the circumstances leading up to the shooting—that he felt he and the other soldiers on the scene were in immediate danger—was true or false.
Judge Col. Maya Heller stated in her ruling that the evidence presented to the court supported a manslaughter conviction "beyond any doubt."
Heller said Azaria's version of the events, which changed several times during the trial, was convoluted and lacked credibility, and that none of his accounts could be supported by the forensic evidence, which the judge described as having "completely debunked" the defense's argument that the terrorist was dead prior to the shooting.
"There is no dispute over the fact that Azaria shot the terrorist and he understands that he took a life," she said, adding that the evidence supported "a direct causal link between the defendant's act and the terrorist's death."
Defense attorney Katz denounced the verdict.
"This was a brutal ruling that dismissed every argument made by the defense," he said. "We respect the military court. We'll have to study the verdict and we'll criticize it in the right forum. We asked for the sentencing hearing to be scheduled sooner rather than later, so as not to lose time on the appeal."