The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of conducting a “farcical” show trial of the IDF soldier who was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant last year.
A Wednesday statement from the PA’s Foreign Ministry said the trial of Sgt. Elor Azaria was an effort by Israel to deflect negative attention from Israel’s wider crimes against Palestinians.
“The Israeli government and its political, judicial, and military arms have been trying to attract international reactions to this hideous crime through the farce of detaining and trying the killer soldier,” the PA statement said, according to Maan News.
“Except for some voices who have tried to defend the alleged Israeli army’s code of ethics, the majority of Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and several of his ministers, have embarked upon defending the murderer Azaria,” the PA charged.
The ministry said the “familial” atmosphere of the courtroom and Azaria’s smiling demeanor proved the case was being addressed “recklessly” by Israeli authorities.
Earlier on Wednesday, a military tribunal convicted Azaria of manslaughter, rejecting his claim that he had shot a wounded Palestinian assailant in the West Bank last year in self-defense.
Azaria was filmed in Hebron on March 24 shooting dead Abdel Fattah al-Sharif nearly 15 minutes after the latter was shot and wounded, as he attempted to stab an IDF soldier.
His trial became a highly charged lightning rod in Israeli public life, with politicians and current and former army generals taking sides supporting or condemning the soldier’s actions.
A panel of three military judges concluded that Azaria’s testimony was “not credible,” that he had opened fire out of a desire for revenge, and that the shooting was “not justified.”
In the lengthy, unanimous decision, Judge Maya Heller tore into claims of self-defense argued by Azaria’s attorneys.
Azaria’s lawyers said they would appeal the verdict, while members of his family berated the judges, calling the decision a “disgrace.”
“The fact that the man sprawled on the ground was a terrorist, who had just sought to take the lives of IDF soldiers at the scene, does not in itself justify disproportionate action,” Heller said.
Azaria’s trial saw politicians and current and former army generals alternately supporting or condemning the soldier’s actions. Many of the army’s top brass, as well as former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, and IDF chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had railed against Azaria’s “unethical” decision to shoot the assailant.
Sentencing in the highly charged case was scheduled forJanuary 15, and Azaria could face up to 20 years in prison.