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    Ex-IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter released from prison

    Elor Azaria was set to be released May 10, but requested to be freed Tuesday to take part in brother’s wedding

    Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter last year for shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian terrorist in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron in 2016, walked free from prison on Tuesday after serving just under two-thirds of his prison sentence.

    Azaria’s 14-month prison sentence was slashed by a third in March, after a parole board accepted his plea for early release on account of good behavior. He was originally scheduled to be freed on Thursday May 10 — five months ahead of his October 2018 release date.

    But Azaria asked to be released two days earlier so that he could attend his brother’s wedding on Wednesday, a request which was approved by military officials.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on Azaria’s release as he departed on a lightning visit to Cyprus, said he was glad the ordeal was over.

    Netanyahu was among dozens of Israeli lawmakers and officials who publicly stated that they believe Azaria should be pardoned and his conviction overturned.

     
    Azaria’s case had sharply divided Israeli public opinion between those who believe he was wrongly tried and those who say the conviction was the right and proper consequence of his actions.
    Azaria was initially sentenced to 18-months in prison after being convicted of manslaughter for shooting Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fattah al-Sharif as he lay prone and immobilized on the ground after carrying out a stabbing attack against Israeli soldiers in Hebron in March 2016.
    But following a string of back and forth appeals by Azaria’s lawyers and the High Court, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reduced the prison sentence from 18 to 14 months.
    Azaria, who has not expressed remorse for his actions, has steadfastly maintained that he shot Sharif because he believed he was armed with an explosive vest under his jacket.
    This claim, made multiple times by Azaria, was dismissed by judges during his conviction pointing to his calm demeanor in the moments before the shooting and the testimonies of fellow soldiers who said Azaria had told them the terrorist “deserved” to die.
    Multiple appeals by Azaria for clemency have been rejected by President Reuven Rivlin.

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