International

Netanyahu backs pardon for Israel soldier convicted over killing Palestinian

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he favours a pardon for an Israeli soldier convicted Wednesday of manslaughter for shooting dead a Palestinian.

Elor Azaria had been on trial in a military court since May, with right-wing politicians defending him despite top army brass harshly condemning his actions.

“This has been a hard and painful day for us all — first and foremost for Elor and his family,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page.

“I support giving a pardon to Elor Azaria,” he added.

Judge Colonel Maya Heller said that there had been no reason for Azaria to open fire since the Palestinian was posing no threat.

“His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die,” she said.

The March 24 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video and spread widely online.

It prompted intense political debate, with Netanyahu making waves when he called Azaria’s father to express his sympathy.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s office issued a statement shortly after Wednesday’s court ruling, advising that any talk of a pardon was premature.

It said that an application could only be made by Azaria himself, his lawyer or close relatives, and then only after the judicial process had run its course.

Sentencing is expected at a later date for the 20-year-old French-Israeli sergeant. He faces up to 20 years in prison and can appeal.

“In the event that a pardon should be requested, it will be considered by the president in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities,” the presidential statement said.

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