Defense witness in Azaria trial: 'I feel like my commanders brainwashed me'
Speaking in a military court in Jaffa Wednesday, Sgt. R. from Sgt. Elor Azaria's unit testified on behalf of the defense, saying of his commanders, 'They were afraid the company was going to mutiny and they said that Elor is a liar. They presented the event as negative.'
Sergeant R., a soldier in Sgt. Elor Azaria's platoon, testified Wednesday night in court in Jaffa for the defense, saying, "I feel like my commanders brainwashed me and made me think something I know isn't right." Azaria was indicted in April for manslaughter after he was captured on camera shooting an already neutralized Palestinian terrorist, Abed al Fatah al-Sharif, in Hebron in March.
"My brigade commander is a colonel and I'm just a regular soldier. It makes me want to believe him because he's my brigade commander. This is a hard feeling for me," Sgt. R, continued.
He added that "after the incident, there were a lot of conversations with the platoon commander, the battalion commander and the brigade commander. They were afraid the company was going to mutiny and they said that Elor is a liar. They presented the event as negative."
Speaking in Azaria's defense, Sgt. R. said, "We were friends before he started his current position and we were in the same room. He is an outstanding soldier and was awarded a certificate of excellence in our last training period. Elor always helped everybody all the time."
Sgt. R. then turned to the circumstances of the incident for which Azaria was brought to trial. "I was in my position from 4:00am to 8:00am. I was supposed to be where the soldier who was stabbed was, but we switched positions so we could guard at the same time. Before I went to sleep I heard shots fired. I grabbed my weapon and I met my sergeant at the front gate. From there, we ran to the Jilber checkpoint. We got there and saw one terrorist on the ground and another who tried to run also on the ground. At this point, I started talking to the wounded soldier and he told me he was alright. I was in shock because he was stabbed and I wasn't."
The witness told the judge that concerns that the neturalized terrorist was strapped with an explosive device were genuine, thereby effectively buttressing one of Azaria's main lines of defense for his actions.
"During the incident, I was anxious because I thought I had to be in the area. I heard someone yell 'there's a bomb here, don't touch the terrorist until an engineer gets here,' and that made me think there really was a bomb," Sgt. R. said. "There was a terrorist in a black coat who was alive and moving. From my point of view, he looked like a threat. I was standing away from him and took cover until commanders came to take care of the situation."