An Israeli court has sentenced Yigal Amir to life in prison, saying that he had meticulously planned and carried out the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and misused Jewish law to justify his actions.
The three-judge panel at Tel Aviv District Court also sentenced Amir on Wednesday to six years in prison for wounding Rabin’s bodyguard, Yoram Rubin.
In a rare move, presiding Judge Edmond Levy allowed the live broadcast of the proceedings on television and radio.
In issuing the sentence, Levy said Amir was “not worthy of mercy, because he lost all semblance of humanity.”
“With premeditation and amazing calm, he decided that the death of the prime minister was the last way to stop the peace process which he didn’t like, and he followed this path to its very end,” Levy said.
Amir, a 25-year-old religious Jew, was arrested after he shot Rabin on Nov. 4 at a Tel Aviv peace rally.
He later confessed to the slaying, saying that he wanted to cut short Rabin’s policy of trading land for peace with the Palestinians, a policy Amir claimed would lead to the loss of Jewish lives.
Levy, himself a religious Jews, rejected Amir’s contention that his act was justified on the basis of a Jewish edict called “din rodef,” which permits murder in order to save the lives of others.
Levy called Amir’s actions a “cynical misue” of Jewish law.
The presiding judge quoted statements made by Amir during his questioning by Israeli police, in which he expressed satisfaction with the prime minister’s death.
Levy also said the court had found no reason to ease the sentence, citing psychiatric examinations of the accused, along with other testimony, that showed Amir did not suffer any lessening of his mental capacities.
Levy asked Amir to rise before delivering the verdict, then said: “We have decided to convict the accused of all the crimes he was accused of” – premeditated murder and aggravated assault.
Amir, wearing a white shirt and black skullcap, showed no remorse for his actions.
“Everything I did, I did for God, for the Torah of Israel, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel,” Amir said from the dock as his mother wept and read from the Book of Psalms in the back of the courtroom.
“I was forced to commit this act, [because] had I not, the damage to the people of Israel would have been irreversible,” Amir said during his final statement.
He also dismissed the three-month proceedings as a “show trial.”
“The State of Israel is a monstrosity,” he shouted as police removed him from the courtroom after the sentencing.
Rabin’s widow, Leah, said she was unmoved by the trial.
If anything, she said, she was critical of the time it had taken for the proceedings to conclude.
“What was left to prove?” she told Israel Radio. “He confessed to his actions immediately afterwards. I have nothing to say about the verdict or the sentence.”
Reacting to the verdict, Prime Minister Shimon Peres said, “This punishment pales in comparison to the crime.”
But, he told reporters Wednesday evening, “I have no idea how to make it more severe.
“This murder violated everything from the Ten commandments to the laws of this state. I just hope the punishment will deter others from trying assuming the role of God, to decide who can take the life of another man.”
In reaching its verdict, the panel of judges rejected the arguments of Amir’s lawyers, who had sought a lesser manslaughter verdict.
His lawyers had argued that far from wanting to kill Rabin, Amir had only sought to wound him, thereby taking him out of the political arena and bringing his peace policies with the Palestinians to an end.
Under Israeli law, a finding of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment; capital punishment is reserved for convicted war criminals. The lesser manslaughter conviction that Amir’s lawyers sought would have resulted in a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The defense had also sought mitigating circumstances in what they argued was Amir’s impaired mental condition, contending that Amir was obsessed with murdering Rabin and that this had affected his judgment.
Earlier in trial, the judges had ordered a psychiatric examination of Amir to test the defense’s contention.
Prosecutor Pnina Guy had focused on what she described as Amir’s coldblooded remorselessness.
Guy had also argued that psychiatrists who examined the gunman found that he did not suffer any mental disturbances.
When reading the verdict, Levy said that while the court had been called upon to answer a simple question – whether the accused had done what he was accused of – if felt obligated to stress the gravity of what had happened in Israel.
Levy warned against ideologies when murder becomes a means to an end.
After the trial, Amir’s defense lawyers said they planned to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Defense attorney Jonathan Ray Goldberg dismissed the findings of the court.
He reiterated a defense claim made during the trial: that a second gunman was involved and that his client was innocent.
“It is possible to prove that the bullets fired from Yigal Amir’s gun were banks and that he is innocent,” he said. “But the court was not interested in hearing our arguments, and our evidence. We will bring this all to the high court.”
Legal commentator Moshe Negbi said that with all the attention the case had drawn, the judges had made an extra effort to demonstrate that the trial had been conducted properly.
“That is why they proposed the psychiatric examinations, and rightly so, I believe,” he told Israel Radio.
The defense has 45 days to appeal the case.