01/05/2017, 09.30
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Netanyahu asks for pardon of Israeli soldier condemned with murder of a Palestinian

Just hours after the court ruling, the Israeli prime minister already speaks of pardon for Elor Sergeant Azari. He spoke of "hard and painful day" and reiterates his full support for the soldier and his family. Israeli President underscores that such an action is currently "premature." The request will be examined after judges determine sentence.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Just few hours after the ruling, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked that the Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing a young unarmed and helpless Palestinian be pardoned. The trial of the 20 year-old Sergeant Elor Azaria looks set to increasingly divide the country, with far right politicians calling for the sentence to be dropped.

The soldier could face up to 20 years in prison; the three judges of the military court reserved a few weeks before pronouncing the sentence of imprisonment.

Handing down the ruling the president of the jury, Colonel Maya Heller, stressed that there were no apparent reasons to justify the opening of fire against the Palestinian youth. "The reason [Elor] shot - said the judge - is the fact that he thought it was right that the terrorist should die."

In a post published on his Facebook page late in the afternoon yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke of "hard and painful day for all of us, but first of all for Elor and his family". "I fully support the request to grant him pardon," said Netanyahu, who declares himself close "to the relatives and to the soldiers”.

Among others members of the government already active in demanding a pardon is the Israeli Minister of Education, and representative of the extreme right, Naftali Bennett. All day yesterday solidarity demonstrations were held in various places throughout the country. According to one poll, 65% of Israelis (Jews) are in favor of the request of the prime minister and his government.

In contrast, the center-left coalitions and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are battling for the  autonomy of the judiciary [military] and claim that the verdict must be accepted. This is the only way, she warns, to heal the bloody wound that has opened within society.

President Reuven Rivlin has also intervened recalling that any comment or action is currently "premature." The Head of State will examine any request for a pardon only once the procedure has been concluded and the length of the sentence handed down.

The legal team defending the young soldier has already announced that it will appeal against the verdict. Instead  the family members of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, the 21-year old Palestinian killed by Elor, have expressed staisfaction. For the father Yusri deserves a life sentence; the uncle Fathi adds that the decision to prosecute him for manslaughter rather than premeditated murder - which provides for more severe punishment - is a "perversion of court justice”.

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