This week in Haaretz 1996 / Rabin's assassin gets life in prison
‘We had only one goal before us,’ the judges wrote, ‘to conduct a fair trial. The court must also ensure the rights of the accused, no matter the deed attributed to him.’
"The Tel Aviv District Court yesterday sentenced Yigal Amir, convicted of murdering Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to life in prison," Haaretz reported on March 27, 1996. "In addition to the life sentence, the court imposed six years for the injuries Amir inflicted on one of Rabin's bodyguards, Yoram Rubin."
Justices Edmond Levy, Oded Mudrik and Saviona Rotlevi presided over the session at which the verdict was read. It included a survey of prosecutor Pnina Guy's arguments and the abundance of evidence presented in the case: Amir's confession to the police, his testimony in court and his reconstruction of the assassination; video footage recorded at the incident by an amateur photographer, Roni Kempler; eyewitness testimony; and medical and ballistic evidence.
"The accused decided at the end of 1993 to harm Rabin, after the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority signed the first of the Oslo Accords," the judges read from Guy's arguments. "Amir asked his brother Hagai and [his friend] Dror Adani to take part in a conspiracy to assassinate the prime minister." The three considered booby-trapping Rabin's car, putting nitroglycerin into the water supply of his apartment building, or shooting him at home.
The year of the murder, 1995, Amir had attempted three times to assassinate Rabin: at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, at the "Nof Jerusalem" hotel and at a ceremony inaugurating a highway flyover in Kfar Shmaryahu.
"In order to get him out of the way," Amir admitted at the trial, "I didn't care whether he died that night ... or whether he was paralyzed and couldn't function as prime minister anymore, it was all the same to me... If there was no alternative, then he should die... I have no regrets about what I did."
The judges emphasized that they did their best to enable Amir to defend himself. They appointed two attorneys, Gabi Shachar and Shmuel Flishman, in addition to Yonatan Ray Goldberg, who had represented Amir at the beginning of the trial.
"We had only one goal before us," they wrote, "to conduct a fair trial. The court must also ensure the rights of the accused, no matter the deed attributed to him."
For the same reasons, the judges also ordered for Amir's mental state to be examined. Three district psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist arrived at the same conclusion: "The accused understands very well the meaning of his actions and is able to stand trial and serve sentence."
The judges also rejected Amir's lawyers' claims that the psychiatric tests he underwent were without significance. As one of the defense attorneys said, "I do not believe that there is a psychiatrist brave enough to say that Amir is insane and take on the responsibility for his hospitalization, from which he might one day be released."
As to Amir's claim that he was acting according to Jewish law, and in accordance with a ruling made by one of his rabbis, the judges said: "The attempt to grant religious authority to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin is completely inappropriate, and amounts to a cynical exploitation of Jewish law for goals that are alien to Judaism."
In the verdict, which accepted the prosecutor's request to add six years to Amir's life sentence for injuring Rubin, the judges wrote: "The accused who stands before us, and those like him, are the nightmare of all lovers of democracy - and it does not matter to which [political] camp they belong."
Justice Minister David Libai told Haaretz that he was moved when he heard the well-reasoned verdict and agreed completely with the judges.
"I do not think it's possible," Libai said, "that there will ever be a justice minister in Israel who recommends that the president reduce by even one day the maximum punishment of life in prison to which the court yesterday sentenced the murderer Yigal Amir. [His] name is a permanent disgrace in Israeli history and he should spend his entire life in prison.
"No Israeli president and no discharge committee will ever forgive him for murdering one of the greatest figures in the nation's history: a soldier, commander and statesman who dedicated his entire life to the State of Israel, its defense, its security and the making of peace." (Lital Levin )