Israeli soldier jailed for manslaughter seeks presidential pardon

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria (C) was given an 18-month prison sentence for the manslaughter of a prone Palestinian assailant

An Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone Palestinian assailant has asked the country's president to pardon him, the presidency said Thursday.

"A request for pardon in the case of Elor Azaria was submitted today, Thursday, October 19, to President Reuven Rivlin," Rivlin's office wrote in English.

"The request will be considered by the relevant authorities and, as is customary in the case of pardon requests by soldiers, will be passed to the ministry of defence and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) for consultation," it said.

A number of Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for Azaria to be pardoned.

The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online.

It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.

Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Azaria, a sergeant and military medic at the time of the incident, shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.

He said he had feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up -- a claim judges rejected.

On July 30, a military court turned down Azaria's appeal against his conviction for manslaughter and upheld an 18-month prison sentence, which he began serving on August 9.

Last month Israel's military Chief of Staff General Gadi Eisenkot reduced the term by four months.

In a letter to Azaria, Eisenkot wrote that "it must be said from the outset clearly and unequivocally that from the point of view of the chief of staff, your conduct was inappropriate and contrary to army orders and to the army's values."

The army said however that Eisenkot had decided to show compassion on account of Azaria's prior military service record in a combat zone.

Amnesty International has said Azaria's sentence does "not reflect the gravity of the offence".

The UN human rights office said it was an "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing".

Azaria completed his mandatory three-year military service on July 20.