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Israelis decry wedding for rabin killer { January 20 2004 }

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Israelis Decry a Wedding for Killer of Rabin
What is unclear is whether anyone can legally stop the planned nuptials of Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence.
By Ken Ellingwood
Times Staff Writer

January 20, 2004

JERUSALEM Across Israel's fractious political landscape, a near-unanimous cry went up Monday: Stop the wedding.

Public response was ferocious to news that Yigal Amir, serving a life sentence for the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, hopes to marry a divorced philosophy scholar from Jerusalem who became close to Amir during prison visits over the last two years.

The plans for a prison wedding were reported on Israeli television Sunday night, and the furor ensued quickly. From left to right across the political spectrum, the general reaction was dismay, with some of the harshest words coming from normally dovish quarters.

"I would have been more pleased had I been invited to Yigal Amir's funeral and not his wedding," said Yossi Sarid, a member of the Knesset, or parliament, and one of the country's leading leftists.

Amir, a right-wing law student, said after his conviction that he shot Rabin to death at a Tel Aviv peace rally because Rabin had betrayed the Jewish people by ceding territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. Over the years, Amir has remained unrepentant, and the controversy over his reported wedding plans underscored the passions that continue to surround Rabin's slaying.

What remains unclear is whether anyone can legally stop the nuptials. Prison officials initially said the law gave them little authority to keep Amir from marrying. The officials said they could prohibit a wedding even a murderer's only on grounds of national security.

But on Monday, the prisons chief, Yaakov Ganot, said he would deny a marriage request, which had yet to be officially lodged. "When a request is filed, we will examine it, even though my decision is not to approve it," Ganot said.

Knesset members immediately began proposing legislation aimed at stopping the union. The law "enabling abominable murderers such as Yigal Amir to get married in jail should be changed," said Yuval Steinitz, a member of the right-wing Likud Party. Others, too, talked about new laws to prevent prisoners who are serving life sentences from marrying.

"An individual who took the liberty to murder his fellow man, to wreak terrible damage on the country, revoked for himself the rights that belong to people who recognize that people also have duties and not just whims," said Knesset member Shimon Peres, who served as foreign minister under Rabin. Amir once said he would have liked to have killed Peres too.

Peres said passing a marriage ban for Amir would be no different from a previous action by the government to deny Amir the possibility of amnesty.

But Dan Yakir, an attorney for the Assn. of Civil Rights in Israel, said Amir should be able to enjoy the matrimonial rights of other prisoners.

"The crime he committed is indeed atrocious, a crime against human rights and primarily, of course, against the late prime minister's right to life. Moreover, the crime was a crime against our democracy's fundamental values," Yakir said. "At the same time, human rights are given to any human being, even the most abominable among them."

Israel has let imprisoned murderers wed even those serving life sentences for killings that carry political significance and inspire public horror. Samir Sami Kuntar, a Lebanese militant involved in a raid that led to the deaths of three members of an Israeli family and an Israeli police officer in 1979, was allowed to marry while imprisoned, though he has not been permitted conjugal visits. Ami Popper, a cashiered Israeli soldier who fatally shot seven unarmed Palestinian workers in 1990, married behind bars three years later.

The woman planning to marry Amir was identified as a 40ish academic named Larissa Trimbobler, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish immigrant from Russia. According to media reports, Trimbobler, a mother of four who divorced six months ago, befriended Amir during prison visits that began 22 months ago. She originally began writing to Amir because she shared ideological sympathies.

Her lawyer said the romance had developed only in the last two months.

Trimbobler told an Israeli reporter a year ago that Amir "does not view himself as a murderer. He talks about what he did as a slaying, a targeted killing."

The prisoner's mother, Geula, told the Maariv newspaper that she was "very pleased" about the proposed wedding, and she vowed a court appeal if the marriage was blocked.

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