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Elor Azaria
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Lieberman urges President Rivlin: Pardon Elor Azaria
Defense Minister Lieberman asks President Rivlin to 'put an end to the affair that shook Israeli society, and at this time show leniency and mercy to the soldier'; Azaria, who is serving a 14-month sentence for shooting dead a neutralized terrorist, asked the president for 'a measure of justice and mercy' last month.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman made a recommendation to President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday to grant pardon to former IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter after shooting dead a neutralized terrorist.

 

 

"We must put an end to the affair that shook Israeli society, and at this time show leniency and mercy to the soldier," Lieberman stated in his recommendation.

 

Azaria submitted his official request for clemency to the president last month, asserting: "I unfortunately did not receive a just trial."

 

Lieberman, prior to being appointed defense minister, attends court hearing in Azaria's case (Photo: Avi Rokach)
Lieberman, prior to being appointed defense minister, attends court hearing in Azaria's case (Photo: Avi Rokach)

 

"I ask for a measure of justice and mercy, the essence of the presidential pardon, from His Honor the President in this request," Azaria added.

 

Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in military prison, but in late September IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot decided to shorten his sentence by four months. He began serving his sentence in August, after a series of appeals and postponements.

 

Lieberman's recommendation to pardon Azaria contradicts that of IDF officials, who are of the opinion the IDF chief of staff's decision to shorten Azaria's sentence is sufficient.

 

If the president accedes, even partially, to Azaria's request, the former soldier could be released from prison within several months, as the military parole board is also expected to cut a third of his sentence based on good behavior.

 

Elor Azaria (Photo: Shaul Golan)
Elor Azaria (Photo: Shaul Golan)

 

"Mr. President, few are the affairs in which the matters of one person mirror the entire Israeli society like the case before us," Lieberman wrote to Rivlin. "Israeli society faced a test in this affair that demonstrates, perhaps more than any other incident in recent years, the rifts and divisions among it," he continued.

 

"I was among the many who believed that in light of the circumstances, it was unsuitable to charge the soldier with a criminal offense. This case is about an excelling soldier and a terrorist who had the intention to kill," the defense minister asserted.

 

"But since he was put on trial and since the court made its ruling, I backed the military justice system. And despite harsh criticism against me, I declared that we live in a country that honors the rule of law, and we must honor the ruling of the military court," he continued. "Elor Azaria and his family paid a heavy personal and familiar price in dealing with Elor's trial and the long and unprecedented public exposure, which appears to have also exacted a cost on their health."

 

Lieberman asserted that "In this unique case, the public interest must also come into consideration—the need to mend rifts in society, and the effect the incident and the trial had on Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers. We send our sons and daughters to defend state security and the public peace, putting them in complex situations the likes of which don't exist anywhere in the world, and demand of them—and we will continue doing so—to act courageously, with determination, professionally and morally. I believe pardoning Elor Azaria will not detract from these demands, and create the right balance between the immense importance of the rule of law and the public and personal considerations concerning this matter."

 

The President's Residence said in response to Lieberman's request: "The president has received the relevant opinions to continue examining the soldier Elor Azaria's pardon request. He will examine all opinions submitted to him, alongside the relevant case materials, and discuss the matter with the professional ranks."  

 

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