Friend of Rabin assassin to be freed


JERUSALEM, July 18 (JTA) — Israeli President Moshe Katsav has commuted the sentence of a woman who was sentenced to nine months in prison for failing to prevent the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

As a result of Katsav’s decision Wednesday, Margalit Har-Shefi will be released from jail on Aug. 10, after serving two-thirds of her sentence.

In June 1998, a Tel Aviv court found Har-Shefi guilty of knowing of Yigal Amir’s plot to assassinate Rabin, yet failing to act to prevent it.

Har-Shefi maintained throughout her trial that she thought Amir was merely boasting of plans to assassinate Rabin, but the court found what it considered inconsistencies in her testimony.

Katsav said Wednesday that Har-Shefi had paid her debt to society and had expressed regret over the assassination. He also said she was unable to adhere to religious observances in existing prison facilities for women.

The move comes after the Supreme Court rejected appeals Har-Shefi filed both against her conviction and her sentence, and after the parole board rejected a request to release her after serving half her sentence.

The decision stirred strong political reactions linked to the 1995 assassination by Amir, a right-wing, religious student opposed to Rabin’s land- for-peace policies with the Palestinians.

Rabin’s daughter, Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff, said Wednesday the president’s decision had caused a “searing pain.”

“We have to wonder what lessons were learned” from the assassination, she said.

She added that Katsav’s decision sent a negative message — that those who fail to prevent crimes can nonetheless earn the president’s compassion.

Opposition leader Yossi Sarid said wryly that after both the courts and parole board concluded that Har-Shefi failed to demonstrate remorse, only the president had managed to perceive her concealed regret.

The leader of the left-wing Shinui Party, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, said he expects Katsav’s next move will be to nominate Amir for the Israel Prize.

On the right, there was praise for the move.

Shaul Yahalom of the National Religious Party said Har-Shefi should neither have been tried nor sent to jail.

Knesset member Michael Kleiner of the right-wing Herut Party said nothing can compensate for the injustice done to Har-Shefi.

Right-wingers long have pointed to an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Har-Shefi was sent to jail for failing to prevent the assassination while Amir’s handler in the Shin Bet security service, Avishai Raviv, has not suffered any legal penalty for allegedly pushing Amir to translate his ideology into murderous action.

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