|“||They can gas me, but I am famous. I have achieved in one day what it took Robert Kennedy all his life to do.||„|
|~ Sirhan Sirhan|
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan (born March 19, 1944) is a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship who assassinated United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 1968; Kennedy died the following day at Good Samaritan Hospital. Sirhan was convicted of murder and received a life sentence, to be at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California. He granted parole on August 27, 2021.
Sirhan was born in Jerusalem an Arab Christian, and he attended a Lutheran school. In 1989, he told David Frost, "My only connection with Robert Kennedy was his sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 [fighter jet] bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians." Some scholars believe that the assassination was the first major incident of political violence in the United States stemming from the Arab–Israeli conflict in the Middle East.
Sirhan was born into an Arab Palestinian Christian family in Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine. As a child growing up in the West Bank, Sirhan was traumatized by the violence he witnessed in the Arab–Israeli conflict, including the death of his older brother, who was run over by a Jordanian military vehicle that was swerving to escape Israeli gunfire.
When Sirhan was 12 years old, his family emigrated to the US, moving briefly to New York and then to California. In Altadena, he attended Eliot Junior High School, followed by John Muir High School and Pasadena City College, both in Pasadena. Sirhan's father, Bishara, has been characterized as a stern man who often beat his sons harshly. Shortly after the family's move to California, Bishara returned alone to the Middle East. Standing 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm) and weighing 120 pounds (54 kg) at 20 years old, Sirhan moved to Corona to train to be a jockey while working at a stable, but lost his job and abandoned the pursuit after suffering a head injury in a racing accident.
Sirhan never became an American citizen, retaining instead his Jordanian citizenship. As an adult, he changed church denominations several times, joining Baptist and Seventh-day Adventist churches. Then in 1966, he joined the occult organization Ancient Mystical Order of the Rose Cross, commonly known as the Rosicrucians.
Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
Around 12:15 a.m. PDT on June 5, 1968, Sirhan fired a .22 caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver at United States Senator Robert Kennedy and the crowd surrounding him in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after Kennedy had finished addressing supporters in the hotel's main ballroom. Authors George Plimpton, Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, former professional football player Rosey Grier, and 1960 Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson were among several men who subdued and disarmed Sirhan after a struggle.
Kennedy was shot three times—once in the head and twice in the back—with a fourth bullet passing through his jacket. He died almost 26 hours later at Good Samaritan Hospital. Five other people at the party were also shot, but all five recovered: Paul Schrade, an official with the United Automobile Workers union; William Weisel, an ABC TV unit manager; Ira Goldstein, a reporter with the Continental News Service; Elizabeth Evans, a friend of Pierre Salinger, one of Kennedy's campaign aides; and Irwin Stroll, a teenage Kennedy volunteer.
In a 2018 interview with The Washington Post, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that he traveled to the Richard J. Donovan correctional facility in California to meet with Sirhan, and that after a relatively lengthy conversation (the details of which he would not disclose), believed that Sirhan did not kill his father and that a second gunman was involved.
A motive cited for Sirhan's actions is the Middle East conflict. After his arrest, Sirhan said, "I can explain it. I did it for my country." Sirhan believed that he was deliberately betrayed by Kennedy's support for Israel in the June 1967 Six-Day War, which had begun one year to the day before the assassination.
During a search of Sirhan's apartment after his arrest, a spiral-bound notebook was found containing a diary entry that demonstrated that his anger had gradually fixated on Kennedy, who had promised to send 50 fighter jets to Israel if elected president. Sirhan's journal entry of May 18, 1968, read: "My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming the more and more of an unshakable obsession...Kennedy must die before June 5th." They found other notebooks and diary entries expressing his growing rage at Kennedy; his journals also contained many nonsensical scribbles that were thought to be his version of "free writing".
Later in prison, Sirhan claimed that he was drunk. An interview with Sirhan in 1980 revealed new claims that a combination of liquor and anger over the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war triggered his actions. "You must remember the circumstances of that night, June 5. That was when I was provoked," Sirhan says, recorded in a transcript of one of his interviews with Mehdi, later president of the New York-based American-Arab Relations Committee. "That is when I initially went to observe the Jewish Zionist parade in celebration of the June 5, 1967, victory over the Arabs. That was the catalyst that triggered me on that night." Then Sirhan said, "In addition, there was the consumption of the liquor, and I want the public to understand that."
Despite the fact that Sirhan admitted his guilt in a recorded confession while in police custody on June 9, a lengthy, publicized trial followed in The People of the State of California v. Sirhan Sirhan. The judge did not accept his confession and denied his request to withdraw his plea of "not guilty" in order to plead "guilty".
Sirhan was convicted on April 17, 1969, and was sentenced six days later to death in the gas chamber. Three years later, his sentence was commuted to life in prison, owing to the California Supreme Court's decision in The People of the State of California vs. Robert Page Anderson, which ruled that capital punishment is a violation of the California Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The February 1972 decision was retroactive, invalidating all existing death sentences in California.
Possibility of parole
On August 27, 2021, in his 16th appearance before the parole board, Sirhan was recommended for parole. He has served 53 years in jail. Two of Kennedy's surviving sons, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, offered their support for parole during Sirhan's appearance before the parole board. The decision is subject to a 90-day review by the California Board of Parole Hearings after which Governor Gavin Newsom, has 30 days to grant, reverse, or modify the decision.
Six other surviving children of Robert F. Kennedy urged the full parole board or Newsom to reverse the decision. "It is a recommendation we intend to challenge every step of the way", they said. They filed a statement with the parole board on August 27, 2021.
Neither Los Angeles attorney general George Gascón nor any staff of his office appeared or spoke for the prosecution, the first time no one from the prosecution appeared in the 16 parole hearings, which is Gascón’s policy as to parole hearings.
The next step in the parole process is review "by the legal division of the Board of Parole Hearings, a process that can take up to about four months. If the lawyers find an error, they can send the case to the full slate of commissioners to review." If there is no reason to send the decision to the full board of commissioners, then it goes to the governor, who has 30 days to review it.
Should he be paroled, Sirhan plans to live with his only surviving brother, Munir Sirhan, in Los Angeles, according to his parole filing.