Rabin assassin hires top lawyer in bid for release from jail

Yigal Amir hires outspoken lawyer Yoram Sheftel in bid to overturn a law that is keeping him in jail.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The assassin who was convicted of the murdering Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 has hired a well-known Israeli lawyer to handle his appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court to repeal the law enacted by the Knesset in 2001 that prevents a parole hearing on his release, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.

Yigal Amir retained the services of flamboyant lawyer Yoram Sheftel who gained notoriety in the late 1980s for his defense of Ukrainian-American John Demjanjuk who was accused of being Ivan the Terrible, a notorious guard at a Nazi extermination camp.

Amir was convicted for murdering Rabin and handed a life sentence, which in Israel is limited to 25 years in jail. He received an additional six years for wounding one of Rabin’s body guards.

Concerned that Amir would eventually be released, the Knesset passed the “Yigal Amir Law” in 2001, stipulating that the parole board cannot recommend to the president a pardon or shorten the sentence of someone convicted of assassinating a prime minister for political or ideological reasons.

Amir hired Sheftel, who argues that the law was enacted after the conviction and therefore it does not apply to him.

“It’s a personal law because it’s aimed at just one person,” Sheftel told Channel 12. “It is a retroactive law because it was passed about six years after the assassination of Rabin.”

Sheftel called the law “barbaric,” because he said it “completely violates the fundamental principle of criminal law.”

“There are no punishments if you are not warned first, including aggravating a sentence in the middle of the game,” Sheftel said. “The time has come to release Yigal Amir – not today, not tomorrow, but yesterday.”

Rabin’s former chief of staff, Shimon Sheves, said there was no way any government would alter the law so that Amir would be allowed to go free.

“It is a pity that the Knesset did not enact a law in advance that a murderer of a prime minister will not be released,” Sheves told Radio 103FM in Tel Aviv. “Yigal Amir murdered Israeli democracy. There is no court in Israel to release him from prison. There is no Knesset in Israel to change the law.”