Robert Kennedy's Arab assassin wounded in prison stabbing

Jerusalem-born Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, was stabbed in a San Diego prison by a fellow inmate on Friday.

Sara Rubenstein,

Sirhan Sirhan
Sirhan Sirhan
REUTERS

The 75-year-old assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who was hospitalized on Friday after being stabbed by a fellow prison inmate, is in stable condition on Sunday, according to California state prison officials. Sirhan is currently serving a life sentence in a San Diego prison for the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

"Officers responded quickly, and found an inmate with stab wound injuries," a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. "He was transported to an outside hospital for medical care and is currently in stable condition. The suspect in the attack has been identified, and has [been] placed in the prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit, pending an investigation.”

Sirhan, an Arab Christian with Jordanian citizenship, was born in the Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem in 1944 and attended Lutheran schools. In 1956, when he was 12, he emigrated with his family to the United States. The family settled in California and Sirhan completed his education at US public schools.

On June 5, 1968, Sirhan, 24 at the time, entered the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where Kennedy, 42, was speaking, announcing his win of the California Democratic presidential primary. When Kennedy concluded his speech, Sirhan shot at Kennedy and the people around him, hitting Kennedy and five others. Kennedy, who was hit by three bullets, died 26 hours later. The others eventually recovered from their wounds.

Following his arrest, Sirhan said, "I did it for my country." A search of his apartment revealed a notebook with a diary entry discussing his anger and feelings of betrayal by Kennedy's support for Israel in the Six-Day War, which began exactly one year prior to the assassination. During his campaign for the Democratic presidential candidate, Kennedy had promised to send 50 fighter jets to Israel if he was elected president.

"My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming the more and more of an unshakable obsession...Kennedy must die before June 5th," wrote Sirhan in his diary entry on May 18, 1968.

At the trial, Sirhan confessed to killing Kennedy "with 20 years of malice aforethought" and said he killed Kennedy due to the Middle East struggle between Arab and Jew. In 1989, Sirhan explained in an interview from prison that "20 years" referred to the years since Israel was founded, saying: "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."

Sirhan was convicted of killing Kennedy on April 17, 1969, and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. His sentence was commuted to life in prison three years later when California's Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in the state.

Sirhan has applied for parole 15 times and was denied each time. His next parole hearing is in 2021.

In 1948, when Kennedy was 22, he traveled to Israel as a journalist for The Boston Post, reporting on Israel's War of Independence. He became a lifelong supporter of Israel and later wrote about his admiration for the courage of the Israelis during the war.

Kennedy's brother, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963 at age 46.




top