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Rivlin rejects Hebron shooter Elor Azaria's clemency request

20 November 2017

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin rejected on Sunday a request to pardon a soldier who shot dead an incapacitated Palestinian knifeman, despite calls by the country's top political leaders. Azaria submitted a formal request last month.

Rivlin said he took that into account, along with the decision of the trial judges, combined with the fact that Azaria will face a review panel that will consider his release in three months.

According to a statement from Rivlin's office: "The president has taken into account the offenses you committed and their circumstances... and he has chose to reject the request".

Supporters for Israeli soldier Elor Azaria
Supporters for Israeli soldier Elor Azaria

Azaria became a right-wing cause celebre in Israel, where most Jewish men and women are drafted at 18 for military service.

The deadly shooting was caught on a video by a human rights organization and spread widely on social networks.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who had sent a letter to the president two weeks ago asking him to pardon Azaria, said in a statement that while he "appreciates" the president, he wishes to "express sorrow" over the decision.

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"President Rivlin had an opportunity to end an affair that has rocked Israeli society", Lieberman wrote. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head.

"Beyond the price that the soldier and his family have paid ..."

Azaria was originally sentenced to 18 months in prison, but, in September, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reduced the sentence, meaning Azaria could leave prison as early as March 30, 2018, having served less than eight months behind bars, if he obtains additional time off for good behavior. "I believe ... that (there is a need) to heal the rifts in society ... we must not forget that this was a case of (Azaria), an exemplary soldier (facing) a terrorist who came to kill".

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The Palestinian government said Azaria's jail term had given Israeli soldiers a "green light" to kill with impunity.

In July, an appeal over Azaria's sentence was rejected by an Israeli military court.

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Rivlin rejects Hebron shooter Elor Azaria's clemency request