Sirhan Sirhan
Sirhan SirhanREUTERS/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Handout via Reut

A California parole board recommended on Friday that the convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, be released on parole.

Sirhan, 77, shot and killed Kennedy on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after Kennedy had won California's Democratic presidential primary. Sirhan was convicted of first-degree murder in 1969 and sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972.

Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian Arab, said in his confession that he murdered Kennedy because he was angered by the Democratic Senator's support for the State of Israel.

For the first time, prosecutors did not oppose Sirhan's early release on Friday. The parole board determined that given his age and the length of time he had spent in prison, Sirhan was unlikely to be a repeat offender or to pose any thret to society,

Six of RFK's surviving children opposed Sirhan's release.

"As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole. Our father's death is a very difficult matter for us to discuss publicly and for the past many decades we have declined to engage directly in the parole process," read a statement signed by signed by Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy, and Rory Kennedy.

"Given today's unexpected recommendation by the California parole board after 15 previous decisions to deny release, we feel compelled to make our position clear. We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards for parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California," the statement continued.

"We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release. We urge the Parole Board staff, the full Board, and ultimately, Governor Newsom, to reverse this initial recommendation. It is a recommendation we intend to challenge every step of the way, and we hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us."

Two of Kennedy's children, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, support Sirhan's release.

The decision to grant Sirhan's parole will be reviewed over the next 90 days by the California Parole Board. Afterwards, California Governor Gavin Newsom will have 30 days to review the case and make a final decision on whether to uphold, modify or reverse the decisions.