Israeli president rejects pardon of convicted soldier Elor Azaria

Elor Azaria: Israeli president refuses to pardon soldier who shot and killed unarmed Palestinian

Elor Azaria: Israeli president refuses to pardon soldier who shot and killed unarmed Palestinian

Amid harsh criticism for his decision regarding Elor Azaria's request for clemency, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin clarifies that he knows "difficult decisions must be made" and that he expected the controversy which he believes to be part of an "orchestrated move".

Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by a military court in January and sentenced 18 months in prison, and was demoted to the rank of private in February. Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.

"President Reuven Rivlin today took the decision to deny the request for pardon filed by Elor Azaria", his office said in a statement, one month after the jailed soldier submitted his request.

Azariya was sentenced to 18 months in prison following a conviction on a manslaughter charge after he shot and killed an injured terrorist in Hebron who was shot and neutralized after stabbing another soldier in March 2016.

In September, Israel's Chief of Staff General Gadi Eisenkot reduced the term by four months. The shooting was captured on video by a local affiliate of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. Eisenkot had earlier declined to pardon Azaria.

Lieberman said in response that he respected Rivlin but was saddened at his ruling.

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.

"The opportunity arose to put an end to this affair, which rocked Israeli society", Liberman said.

"In addition to the personal price paid by the soldier and his family", he says, it was "in the public's interest in this unique case to consider also the public interest, the need to mend the rips in Israeli society, and the impact the trial had on IDF soldiers and on youth who are soon to be inducted".

Rivlin's decision stressed the potential damage done by the incident to the Israeli military's moral code.

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