State Considering Gradually Easing Isolation of Rabin's Assassin

The first additional privilege that Yigal Amir could gain would be the ability to meet with another prisoner once every two weeks.

The government is considering gradually easing the harsh incarceration conditions of Yigal Amir, the convicted murderer of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

On Monday, the state will request that Amir be held in solitary confinement for another six months, but simultaneously, the Shin Bet and Prison Services in conjunction with the Attorney General's office are weighing the option of gradually reintegrating Amir into the general prison population.

amir - Tomer Neuberg - May 14 2010
Tomer Neuberg

Amir is serving a life sentence for shooting and killing Yitzhak Rabin as the then-prime minister departed a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995.

The first option being considered is permitting Amir to meet with another prisoner at intervals of once every two weeks. If this proposal proves to be successful, the Shin Bet and Prison Services would consider further measures to ease restrictions on Amir.

With the help of his lawyer Ariel Atari, Amir will object on Monday to the continuation of his isolation, contending that this amounts to discrimination, when compared with the conditions of other high-risk security prisoners, who are not held in isolation.

Atari recently submitted a long list of questions intended to clarify the conditions under which Amir is incarcerated. Among other privileges, Amir will request that he be released from isolation so that he will be able to pray in a quorum of ten Jewish men.

Amir has already been held in complete isolation from other prisoners for 15 years. The state has contended over and over that on one hand, there is a danger that other prisoners will try to physically attack him, and on the other hand, that he will sway other prisoners with his extreme right-wing ideology.

Amir dismisses these contentions, claiming that the state is recycling old information about him, and that is has no current knowledge of any threat to his life or intentions on his part to incite other prisoners.

Under isolation, Amir is allowed only one hour per day in the prison yard, separated from all other prisoners. He is allowed to meet members of his family with the exception of his brother Amitai, he is permitted to speak on the telephone, and he can have a conjugal visit with his wife once per month. Amir can also own books and he may receive newspapers, though he chooses not to.

At the previous deliberation on the conditions of Amir's isolation, Amir told the presiding judge that other prisoners such as Raed Salah and Marwan Barghouti, who are considered likely to incite other prisoners to ideas hostile to the state, mix with the general prison population, and therefore to hold only him in isolation would be a case of discrimination.

"Even [Mordechai] Vanunu [who divulged secrets about Israel's alleged nuclear weapons program to foreign media sources] was only held in isolation for 11 years," Amir said. "There is no [legitimate] reason whatsoever [for my isolation]." But the regional court ruled against Amir, and so he appealed to the High Court of Justice.

In December, High Court Judge Miriam Naor determined that Amir will continue to be held in isolation, but that at his next assessment it would be possible to consider allowing Amir to have supervised visits with another prisoner or prisoners, and that if he abused this privilege, it would be revoked.

Among other options, the possibility was raised of placing another prisoner in Amir's cell, but Amir objected to this suggestion. In the wake of this refusal, Prison Service and the Shin Bet began to consider other ways to easing the restrictions on Amir.