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Israeli extremists want rabin killer freed { September 2007 }

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Israel far right presses for release of Rabin killer
OCtober 22, 2007

JERUSALEM (AFP) Israel's extreme right has launched a nationwide campaign to have the jailed assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin released on the 12th anniversary of the murder.

"If Israel is ready to release terrorists for peace, by the same principle, we demand the release of Yigal Amir," said Itamar Ben Gvir, who belongs to a committee set up in support of Israel's most famous political assassin.

On November 4, 1995 Amir fired three bullets into Rabin's back at the end of a Tel Aviv peace rally in a bid to torpedo the Oslo autonomy accords with the Palestinians that had earnt the Israeli premier a Nobel peace prize.

On Monday Israel's police commissioner handed Dalia Rabin, the late prime minister's daughter, a tape recording of a police interrogation of Amir hours after the assassination, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

"I saw Rabin go down (from the podium). I decided to shoot him dead, to neutralise him politically. I don't regret anything. God will look after me." Amir said in an extract broadcast by local media.

He adds that he could have also killed Israel's current President Shimon Peres on the same night but decided not to, considering the then-foreign minister who shared the Nobel prize with Rabin a "secondary target."

The so-called Committee for Democracy has nevertheless released a 15-minute video of Amir's family calling for his release "in the name of human rights" and "national reconciliation", to the horror of peace activists and politicians.

The organisation plans to hand out 150,000 copies of the DVD on the streets and at extreme right-wing gatherings to mark the 12th anniversary of the murder which falls on Wednesday under the Hebrew calendar.

Amir was jailed for life for assassinating Rabin and is kept in solitary confinement in Beersheva prison in southern Israel under round-the-clock camera surveillance. He has never expressed remorse for his crime.

"We don't support what Yigal Amir did, even though we believe Yitzhak Rabin was a traitor, but we take issue with the hypocrisy of the Israeli left that does not oppose the release of Marwan Barghuti," said Ben Gvir.

Barghuti is the charismatic Palestinian who leads the secular Fatah party in the occupied West Bank and widely regarded as the inspiration behind the intifada that erupted in September 2000.

He is serving five life sentences after being convicted in 2004 of five counts of murder and one of attempted murder resulting from three suicide attacks and an aborted attack.

But even Amir's lawyer doubted his client was eligible for imminent parole.

"We have to be realistic. My client hasn't filed a request for early release or for his sentenced to be lessened. He was sentenced to life in prison and he has served 12 years only," said Shmuel Casper.

Israeli politicians and peace activists have slammed any attempt to release Amir, whose possible release remains a taboo for many in the Jewish state.

"I will take every action so that Yigal Amir spends his whole life in jail. That's where he belongs and nowhere else," former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told army radio.

"We condemn this campaign but also the fact that the Israeli media gives it so much attention," said Yariv Oppenheimer, who heads the Peace Now group.

"It is very dangerous: it seems that the passion this year is not about the murder of Yitzhak Rabin but about the fate of the murderer".

Israel will mark Wednesday's anniversary with a series of official events, including a special session in parliament. Extreme right-wingers are planning their own counter-demonstration on the same day.
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