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Associated Press
Jerusalem – As Israel marked the 12th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Tuesday, his killer is at the center of an emotional debate. Should Yigal Amir be allowed to attend the circumcision of his son – or even be pardoned altogether?
The assassin was once reviled by all but the most extreme Israelis, but sympathy for him cast a shadow over the ceremonies and services for Rabin that began Tuesday evening, the anniversary of the slaying according to the Hebrew calendar.
Amir, an Orthodox Jew, shot Rabin after a peace rally on Nov. 4, 1995, to protest the prime minister’s policy of trading West Bank land for peace with the Palestinians. He was sentenced to life in prison and has been held in isolation.
Over the past year, however, Amir has been permitted conjugal visits with his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, whom he married by proxy while in prison. She is due to give birth to a boy any day.
That news has coincided with a campaign by Israeli extremists and Amir’s family to secure his release from prison. Stickers, posters and 150,000 copies of a video featuring his mother, wife and supporters vowing to free him by next spring have been circulated.
“There are murderers who are just murderers, and then there are prisoners who did their acts because of ideology,” Ariel Zilber, a popular Israeli singer, says in the video. “It is about time that we begin to care about the human rights of ideological prisoners.”
President Shimon Peres, who was Rabin’s foreign minister and was a few steps away when the leader was gunned down, rejected calls for clemency for Amir.
At a memorial ceremony Tuesday evening at his official residence, Peres declared: “God will not pardon him. Man will not forgive him.”
The pro-Amir movement has support beyond the fringes of society. A recent newspaper poll indicated about a quarter of Israelis, including almost half of religiously observant Jews, think Amir should be pardoned in 2015 after serving 20 years.
On Monday, in an apparent attempt to counter the wave of sympathy, police released a video of Amir’s initial questioning just after the shooting in which he coolly admitted assassinating Rabin. When asked if he regretted his act, a cocky Amir responded, “Heaven forbid.”
Rabin’s daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, said the video should be a reminder for those who seek to humanize her father’s killer.
“If you forgot and if you’d like to think after 12 years that he is a man because he got married, then no,” she said Tuesday on Israeli Army radio.
She also railed against the media’s preoccupation with her father’s killer, and said Amir deserved to be executed.
“He rose up against Israeli democracy, and he must be kept from the Israel public,” she said. “We don’t have a death penalty, so he should be destined to be kept in prison, in isolation, without any easing and any special privileges.”
Many officials vowed Tuesday never to allow Amir’s release. “The reduction of his sentence is unacceptable, unreasonable and impossible,” Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said.
As formal ceremonies marked the anniversary at the presidential residence, the parliament and Rabin’s graveside, other memorials were planned across the country.
The Yitzhak Rabin Synagogue in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv, held a service focusing on the upswing in sympathy for Amir, especially from Orthodox Jews.
“We were established to counter this type of religious zealotry,” said Gadi Gvaryahu, chairman of the synagogue. “Education is the only way.”
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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