Bill Would Bar Pardon for Political Killers

A bill passed Thursday in its first reading by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee states that the president will not be able to reduce the sentence of Yigal Amir, the man guilty of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. According to the bill, which was submitted by MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), the president will not be able to use his authority to grant a pardon in cases concerning the murder of elected public officials for political motives.

The pardons department within the Justice Ministry expressed opposition to the bill. The legal advisor of the president's office also noted that the president opposed such legislation as it encroached on the authority of the president. This, despite the fact that President Moshe Katsav has declared in the past that he is opposed to granting a pardon or any type of relief regarding Yigal Amir's sentence and that during the course of his tenure he has no intention of considering such a pardon request. He also expressed his hope that the next president would not lighten Amir's sentence.

The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Ofir Pines-Paz (Labor) said that following Katsav's decision to mitigate the sentence of Margalit Har-Sheffi's, who was convicted of failing to report Amir's plan to murder Rabin, he decided to speed up the deliberation on Vilan's bill. According to Pines, part of the Israeli public believes that mitigating Har-Sheffi's sentence gives the president legitimacy to pardon Amir. Pines said he believed the law needs only apply to the murder of a prime minister as such a murder carries far-reaching political consequences because the act is intended to end a political process.

Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelessof, daughter of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, supported the legislation, saying "May the decision of President Katsav to mitigate Har-Sheffi's sentence not send the message that the president can pardon politically motivated murder." MK Shaul Yahalom (National Religious Party) expressed support for the bill, saying that Amir should never be pardoned. He did however oppose the fact that Har-Sheffi's name was mentioned in connection with the affair.