The IDF Court of Appeals in the Kiryah, the central military complex in Tel Aviv, met Monday morning for the second day of hearings in an appeal against the 18-month conviction handed down against former IDF sergeant Elor Azariya.
In January, Azariya was convicted of manslaughter for the shooting death of a wounded Arab terrorist, who had just stabbed IDF soldiers, in Hevron last March.
On Monday, Yoram Sheftel, a defense attorney who has volunteered his services for the Azariya legal team, slammed the guilty verdict handed down by an army court, and said it was “unthinkable” to uphold the conviction and 18-month sentence against the former soldier whose case has become a cause celebre inside Israel.
“It would be unthinkable to leave this conviction in place,” said Sheftel, who argued that critical statements by senior army officials and politicians immediately after the incident in question last March created a strong bias within the army establishment against Azariya before the investigation began.
“Elor never had a chance in this trial, given the statements by senior IDF officials,” Sheftel told the court.
Sheftel argued that in other similar cases, members of security forces had not been convicted, calling Azariya’s conviction “selective enforcement” of the law.
The burden of proof, Sheftel claimed, was on the prosecution to show precedent for trying security officers under similar circumstances to Azariya’s.
“This clearly shifts the burden of proof to the prosecution to show that this is not selective enforcement of the law. And that’s something they simply cannot prove!”
Not only were others in similar cases not convicted, most never made it to trial, Sheftel said.
“I want to see – I’m curious to see many other cases like this in which it was decided to put the person on trial. You won’t find any!”