An Israeli military court has convicted a soldier of manslaughter for shooting and killing a Palestinian assailant who was already incapacitated.
The shooting happened in the occupied West Bank in March of 2016, and was captured on camera.
The judges found that 20-year-old Sgt. Elor Azaria acted in cold blood when he shot and killed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, NPR’s Joanna Kakissis reports from Jerusalem:
“Al-Sharif had been shot and wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier. Eleven minutes later, Azaria shot the motionless Al-Sharif in the head.
“A human rights activist filmed the killing. The video went viral.
“Many Israelis say Azaria was justified because he feared Al-Sharif might have been wearing an explosive belt. But Azaria’s superior officers say his actions contradict the army’s ethical standards.”
On Wednesday, as three military judges announced that Azaria had been found guilty, hundreds of Azaria’s supporters outside the army base where the trial took place chanted “God is with him,” Joanna reports.
The case has been deeply polarizing in Israel, The Associated Press reports. It’s rare for an active member of the Israeli military to be charged with manslaughter. The AP reports:
“The verdict caps a nine-month saga that has deeply divided the country. Defense officials have criticized Sgt. Elor Azaria’s conduct, while large segments of the Israeli public, along with members of the nationalist ruling coalition, have rallied behind him.
“In delivering her verdict, Col. Maya Heller systematically rejected all of Azaria’s defense arguments, saying ‘the fact that the man on the ground was a terrorist does not justify a disproportionate response.’ ”
Azaria is set to be sentenced on Jan. 15, according to the AP.