After fifteen successive refusals, the California parole board finally gave its approval, Friday, August 27, for the release from prison of Sirhan Sirhan, sentenced for the assassination of Robert Kennedy, younger brother of former US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Sirhan Sirhan, 77 years old today, was convicted on April 17, 1969 of the murder of the senator from New York. He had been sentenced to death but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972, following a brief abolition of the death penalty in California.
After a 90-day review period, the board’s parole decision will be submitted to the Governor of California, who has the power to deny or vary it.
Palestinian immigrant, Sirhan Sirhan had murdered “Bobby” Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, as the senator campaigned for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election. Five other people were injured. The murderer had at the time justified his gesture by the support given by Robert Kennedy to the sale of military planes to Israel.
During his previous parole application in 2016, Mr Sirhan claimed that he had drunk too much on the night of the crime and that he would have liked “That nothing happened”. He also assured that the confession during his trial was made by a lawyer who advised him badly and convinced him that he was guilty.
A mysterious second shooter?
Sirhan Sirhan had been arrested in the Ambassador’s kitchens, a .22 caliber in hand. During his trial, notebooks had been produced on which he had written “RFK must die”. But some, including one of Bobby Kennedy’s sons, are not convinced that Sirhan is indeed the murderer or that he acted alone.
Among the disturbing details is the fact that the ex-justice minister and former New York senator was hit by a bullet fired at close range behind the right ear, while Sirhan was supposed to face him. And according to an acoustics expert, thirteen shots were fired on the night of the drama, but Sirhan’s weapon only had a capacity of eight rounds.
In 2018, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. revealed that he had visited Sirhan Sirhan in prison. “I went there because I was curious and disturbed by the evidence I saw”, he told the Washington post. “I was troubled that the wrong person might have been convicted of my father’s murder”. Her sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had joined her call to reopen an investigation into the crime.
Bobby Junior had sent the commission a letter supporting Sirhan’s parole and his little brother Douglas Kennedy also spoke in favor of him on Friday during the hearing.
Friend of the Kennedy family shot in the head, Paul Schrade has also campaigned for the release of Sirhan for a long time. “It’s a good decision”, he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday. “I am really grateful to the commission for giving Sirhan a chance to return home”, added the 96-year-old man.