If parole passes through remaining hurdles, assassin Sirhan Sirhan will likely be deported to Jordan.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian who assassinated Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy for his views on Israel, was recommended for parole by a California parole board on Friday.
The board said that Sirhan, now 77, was repentant and not likely to reoffend.
Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian, was born in Jerusalem. A Jordanian national, he said he was spurred to kill Kennedy when the New York Senator endorsed the sale of 50 combat aircraft to Israel.
Kennedy was killed on June 5, 1969, in Los Angeles after claiming victory in the California Democratic primary. After addressing supporters in the Ambassador Hotel, he passed through thekitchen area where Sirhan shot him three times at close range. Five other people were injured. The date was also the one-year anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s victorious Six-Day War.
Sirhan’s diaries showed an obsessive resentment for U.S. support for Israel.
He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1969. However, California’s Supreme Court would go on to invalidate all pending death sentences handed down before 1972, leaving Sirhan’s sentence commuted to life in prison.
Since then, Sirhan was denied parole 15 times.
Sirhan’s freedom is still not certain, however. Lawyers for the parole board have 90 days to review the decision, and then Gov. Gavin Newsom has another 30 days to approve it. Newsom, a Democrat, faces a recall election. A spokeswoman for Newsom declined to say whether he would approve the recommendation, saying only that the governor would consider the case after the parole board’s lawyers complete their review.
During the parole hearing, when asked how he feels about the Middle East conflict today, Sirhan broke down crying and temporarily couldn’t speak. He then said he doesn’t follow what’s going on in the region but thinks about the suffering of refugees.
If released, Sirhan could be deported to Jordan. Parole Board Commissioner Robert Barton said he was concerned Sirhan might become a “symbol or lightning rod to foment more violence.”
Sirhan said he was too old to be involved in the Middle East conflict and would detach himself from it. He told the board he hopes to live with his blind brother in Pasadena, Calif.
Kennedy’s affinity for Israel began in 1948 when he visited Mandatory Palestine for several weeks to write dispatches for the Boston Globe during Israel’s War of Independence. Kennedy, then 22, returned to the U.S. before the Jewish State declared its independence.
Six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children said they were shocked by the vote and urged Gov. Newsom to reverse the parole board’s decision and keep Sirhan behind bars. But two, Robert Jr. and Douglas, favor parole.
Daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townshend and Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, haven’t commented publicly.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
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