Israeli soldier who shot downed Palestinian pleads not guilty to manslaughter

An Israeli soldier pleaded not guilty to manslaughter for shooting an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the West Bank in March in a case that has roiled the country.

Attorneys for Sgt. Elor Azaria, 19, of Ramle, told the Jaffa Military Court on Monday that their client acted in self-defense, fearing an immediate threat to himself and other soldiers at the scene.

“The accused acted in a split second to neutralize the terrorist and prevent injury to himself and his companions who were near the terrorist,” the attorneys said, according to The Times of Israel. “He didn’t see another possible way to save his and their lives.”

The defense acknowledged that Azaria may have caused the death of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, but indicated they might revisit the pathology reports that showed it was the soldier’s shot to the head that killed the assailant.

The Jaffa court in April indicted Azaria for manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct for shooting and killing Sharif on March 24. Sharif was shot as he and another assailant launched a stabbing attack on Israeli soldiers in Hebron, wounding one.

The other assailant was killed, and Sharif was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head. The shooting was captured on video.

“The defendant imagined a situation in which, in light of the circumstances, the terrorist was carrying on himself an explosive belt and knife as part of an integrated attack and his movements were intended to activate the belt on his body,” Azaria’s attorneys told the court, saying he had been warned of such a possibility in military briefings.

The military prosecutor told the court in March that Azaria had said Sharif “needed to die” moments after shooting him, an account backed by two soldiers who were at the scene.

Azaria’s case has been controversial in Israel — with some on the political right calling for solidarity with the soldier and others, including military leaders, suggesting such calls reflect a national crisis of ethics. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon immediately condemned the shooting. They then came under fire, including from right-wing politicians, for not standing behind Azaria. Netanyahu later called the soldier’s father in what many saw as a sign of support.

Avigdor Lieberman, who is in negotiations to replace Yaalon as defense minister and previously backed Azaria, said he would not use his authority to intervene in the trial.

Lieberman would bring with him into government his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, expanding the coalition’s narrow majority in the Knesset. Netanyahu’s offer of the Defense Ministry to Lieberman led Labour Party head Isaac Herzog to last week break off negotiations to form a national unity government, reportedly scuttling international plans to push an Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

Israeli soldier who shot Palestinian assailant could see charges downgraded from murder

A soldier caught on video shooting a prone Palestinian terrorist in the head could be charged with manslaughter rather than murder, the military prosecutor said at a hearing.

“We are trying to decide what he could be charged with, including manslaughter,” the prosecutor said at Tuesday’s hearing in Kastina, near Ashdod, where it had been moved from the Jaffa military court.

Hundreds of the soldier’s supporters demonstrated outside the court.

The hearing was held in order for the military prosecutor to request that the soldier be held in detention for an additional nine days, until the office can complete its investigation and file an indictment. The judge approved the request at the end of the hearing.

The soldier, whose name is subject to a gag order, was held on murder charges on Friday for shooting a Palestinian wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor said the soldier shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though he was down on the ground and no longer a threat.

The soldier arrived at the scene several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently, the Israel Defense Forces found in an initial investigation.

An autopsy of the Palestinian assailant to show whether or not the shot was fatal could make a difference in the charges or prevent both murder and manslaughter charges from being levied in favor of negligent homicide or violating the rules of engagement.

On Monday evening, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service released the findings of its own investigation into how it handled the incident, which found that treatment for the downed Palestinian assailant was delayed because he was not declared as safe to be approached.

“The risk of an explosive device or other dangerous element had not been removed, due to the fact that the terrorist was supine on the ground with a jacket (on a hot day) and that no security officer in the field had dispelled the concern,” the organization said in a statement.

This is in direct contradiction to the IDF’s claim that the assailant had been checked and cleared of being in possession of explosives.

Driver in accident that killed Chasidic couple charged with manslaughter

Julio Acevedo, the driver of car in an accident that killed a young Chasidic couple in Brooklyn, was charged with manslaughter.

Brooklyn prosecutors announced a second-degree manslaughter charge against Acevedo, 44, on Tuesday. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

Acevedo earlier had been indicted on charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Prosecutors say Acevedo was speeding through the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at nearly 70 miles per hour when the BMW he was driving plowed into a livery cab that was transporting Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21, to the hospital early on March 3.

Raizy Glauber was pregnant with the couple's first child, which briefly survived an emergency C-section. The Glaubers were killed instantly.

Acevedo fled the scene of the accident and was apprehended several days later in Pennsylvania.

According to reports, Acevedo was imprisoned for a decade for first-degree manslaughter, robbery and drug possesion. In February he was arrested for drunk driving, but a judge did not suspend his license.