The Latest: Netanyahu supports pardon for convicted soldier

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2017 1:59 PM
The Latest: Netanyahu supports pardon for convicted soldier

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The Latest on the conviction of an Israeli soldier on charges of manslaughter over the death of a wounded Palestinian attacker (all times local):

8 p.m.

Israel's prime minister has called for a pardon for a soldier convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a badly wounded Palestinian assailant.

With his comment, Benjamin Netanyahu has plunged into a raging political debate that has divided the country, putting himself at odds with the military. The prime minister made the remarks just hours after Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted on Wednesday. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years. Azaria's defense team has already said it will appeal.

On his Facebook page, Netanyahu wrote: "I support giving Elor Azaria a pardon."

He also urged the public to support the army and its commanders.

The country's president, Reuven Rivlin, has authority to issue pardons but has said he will wait for the legal process to run its course before making a decision.

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6 p.m.

The Israeli military says the soldier convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant will be sentenced in just over a week, on Jan. 15

In a statement, the military says the sentence for Sgt. Elor Azaria will be handed down following a hearing that Sunday. Azaria faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, though analysts expect him to receive less than that.

Azaria's defense team has already said it will appeal.

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4:55 p.m.

The office of Israel's president says it will consider a pardon for Sgt. Elor Azaria at the appropriate time, but that a decision is a long way off.

In a statement, President Reuven Rivlin's office said on Wednesday that a pardon request would be weighed only "following a conclusive judicial ruling." With Azaria still facing sentencing and an appeals process, that means the matter may not come before the president for some time.

The statement gave no indication whether Rivlin would support a pardon. It says that if a request is made, the president will consider it "in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities."

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3:30 p.m.

A hawkish member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition is calling for an "immediate pardon" for the Israeli soldier that killed a wounded Palestinian assailant.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, posted on Facebook: "Today a soldier who killed a terrorist who deserved to die, who had tried to slaughter a soldier, was put in handcuffs and convicted like a criminal."

Other Israeli leaders have expressed similar sentiments.

Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted on Wednesday of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a Palestinian who lay on the ground incapacitated from shots sustained after he stabbed and wounded a soldier in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron.

The incident came during a year in which Palestinian attackers have carried out dozens of stabbing attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.

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2:20 p.m.

The father of the Palestinian attacker fatally shot by Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria is welcoming a military court's conviction of the soldier for manslaughter.

Yousri al-Sharif, father of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, said, "I feel good. It is fair. This is an achievement of the court that it condemned the soldier."

Al-Sharif gathered with his family in his home in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday to watch the verdict being read live on Israeli television. It took the judge nearly three hours to deliver the verdict.

"I was exhausted and tense," he said. "I smoked two packs of cigarettes while watching the verdict."

Azaria was caught on video fatally shooting al-Sharif after the Palestinian had stabbed a soldier in Hebron in March. Al-Sharif was lying motionless on the ground when Azaria shot him in the head.

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1:40 p.m.

A spokesman for the family of the Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker says the court ignored evidence indicating the soldier was innocent.

Sharon Gal, family spokesman and former lawmaker, told reporters, "It was like the court was detached from the fact that this was the area of an attack. I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers."

Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted of fatally shooting a Palestinian involved in the stabbing of a soldier, even though the Palestinian had already been shot and incapacitated by troops.

The soldier's defense team said it would appeal the verdict.

Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman, a military prosecutor, said, "The judges decided that it was an unjustified shooting. This is not a happy day for us. We would have preferred that this didn't happen. But the deed was done, and the offense was severe."

The prosecutor said the verdict was "important, clear, decisive and speaks for itself."

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1:00 p.m.

Israel's defense minister says the conviction of an Israeli soldier on manslaughter charges over the shooting death of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker is "difficult" and that he disagrees with the verdict, but called on the public to respect the court's decision.

Avigdor Lieberman told reporters after Wednesday's ruling that "despite the difficult verdict, the defense establishment will do everything it can to assist the soldier and his family."

He disparaged criticism of the military, saying, "We must keep the army outside every political argument...and keep it in the widest consensus in Israeli society."

The verdict caps a nine-month saga that has deeply divided the country. Defense officials have criticized Sgt. Elor Azaria's conduct, while large segments of the Israeli public, along with members of the nationalist ruling coalition, have rallied behind him.

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12:50 p.m.

An Israeli military court has thrown out a relative of Sgt. Elor Azaria, while a second relative stormed out of the court after his manslaughter conviction over the killing of a wounded Palestinian attacker.

A young woman called the verdict a disgrace and screamed "the Israeli military is over!" before she was thrown out of the courtroom. Another woman screamed "disgusting leftists!" and stormed out.

Azaria sat emotionless as the verdict was delivered.

He is expected to be sentenced in several weeks.

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12:45 p.m.

An Israeli military court has convicted a soldier of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker.

The verdict caps a nine-month saga that has deeply divided the country. Defense officials have criticized Sgt. Elor Azaria's conduct, while large segments of the Israeli public, along with members of the nationalist ruling coalition, have rallied behind him.

In delivering her verdict, Col. Maya Heller systematically rejected all of Azaria's defense arguments, saying "the fact that the man on the ground was a terrorist does not justify a disproportionate response."

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11:30 a.m.

Scuffles have erupted outside the courtroom between supporters of an Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter over the death of a wounded Palestinian attacker and police officers.

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked a major Tel Aviv intersection near the courtroom at military headquarters on Wednesday and clashed with police. Journalists covering the demonstration say they were attacked by demonstrators.

A judge has been reading out the court's decision for nearly an hour and a half, but has not yet announced the verdict.

The rare case of an active serviceman being charged has polarized Israel, with defense officials criticizing the soldier's conduct and large segments of the Israeli public rallying behind him. The soldier was caught on video fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank in March.

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10 a.m.

An Israeli military court is set to deliver the verdict in the case of a soldier tried for manslaughter for the death of a wounded Palestinian attacker.

The rare case of an active serviceman being charged has polarized Israel, with defense officials criticizing the soldier's conduct and large segments of the Israeli public rallying behind him. The soldier was caught on video fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank in March.

Dozens of the soldier's supporters gathered outside a military court ahead of a verdict in his case.

The soldier's family members and journalists waited quietly inside the courtroom at the Israeli military's headquarters. A military official asked his family to show restraint during the reading of the verdict.