Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the Palestinian terrorist who shot Senator Robert Kennedy dead over the senator's support for Israel, was denied parole this week for the fifteenth time.
Kennedy, the younger brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, was shot by Sirhan on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just after winning California's Democratic presidential primary. He died of his wounds the next day, aged 42-years-old.
"This crime impacted the nation, and I daresay it impacted the world," said parole board commissioner Brian Roberts. “It was a political assassination of a viable Democratic presidential candidate."
But Sirhan, now aged 71, continued his longstanding claims on Wednesday that he doesn't remember shooting Kennedy and therefore is "innocent," reports NBC News.
"If you want a confession, I can't make it now," Sirhan said at his hearing. "Legally speaking, I'm not guilty of anything. ...It's not that I'm making light of it. I'm responsible for being there."
Initially Sirhan was sentenced to death, but after California abolished the death penalty he had his sentence commuted to life in prison.
Taking part in the hearing was 91-year-old Paul Schrade, a former adviser to Kennedy who was one of five people wounded in Sirhan's shooting rampage, and whose presence at the parole hearing on Wednesday was his first time to take part in a parole hearing for Sirhan.
Surprisingly Schrade adopted Sirhan's story, claiming there was more than one shooter, and saying he forgives the murderer for shooting him. He asked for Sirhan's release, and apologized for not doing more to help the terrorist over the years. His voice broke with emotion at certain points during his hour of testimony.
"I forgive you for shooting me," Schrade told Sirhan. "I should have been here long ago and that's why I feel guilty for not being here to help you and to help me."
"RFK must die"
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Christian Arab immigrant to the United States born in British Mandate Jerusalem in 1944, has made continual efforts to petition his sentence.
In his 2011 appeal, Sirhan's lawyers claimed the terrorist was hypnotized to shoot a gun at the same time as the "real" killer, as a diversion. The parole commissioners determined he "had not show enough remorse or understanding of the severity of his crime," throwing out his petition.
When Sirhan initially stood trial, he said bluntly on the witness stand that he murdered Kennedy with "20 years of malice aforethought." Handwritten diaries in which he wrote "RFK must die" were introduced into evidence by the prosecutors as well. But he later recanted his confession.
The murderer made clear he had shot Kennedy over his support for Israel. The senator had visited Israel just before the 1948 War of Independence, and wrote four dispatches to the no longer existent Boston Post.
In one report dated June 3, 1948, Kennedy wrote: "When I landed at Lydda Airport I became immediately aware of it. I carried letters of introduction to both Arabs and Jews and at the airport where both sides intermingle it was explained to me by first one and then the other that I was taking a great risk."
"The Jew said it was all right for me to carry Arab papers in Jewish territory for I wouldn’t be molested, but when I entered Arab territory I had better be rid of all letters to Jews for I would immediately be searched and, if they found anything, would be quickly shot. The Arab said exactly the opposite and I found both to be half right, in that I was never searched by either side."