Robert F. Kennedy’s sons support prison release of dad’s assassin

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The man who assassinated US Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 has been granted parole after two of RFK's sons spoke in favour of his release and prosecutors declined to argue he should be kept behind bars.

The decision was a major victory for 77-year-old, though it does not assure his release.

The ruling by the two-person panel at Sirhan's 16th parole hearing will be reviewed over the next 90 days by the California Parole Board's staff.

Then it will be sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant it, reverse it or modify it.

Sirhan Sirhan arrives for a parole hearing on Friday. Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP
Sirhan Sirhanm, seen on Friday, has been granted parole. Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP

Douglas Kennedy, who was a toddler when his father was gunned down, said he was moved to tears by Sirhan's remorse and he should be released if he is not a threat to others.

"I'm overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face," he said.

"I think I've lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love."

The New York senator and brother of President John F. Kennedy was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was gunned down June 6, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after delivering a victory speech in the pivotal California primary.

Sirhan, who was convicted of first-degree murder, has said he doesn't remember the killing.

In this June 5, 1968 file photo, Hotel busboy Juan Romero, right, comes to the aid of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, as he lies on the floor of the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot. Source: Richard Drew/Pasadena Star News via AP
Senator Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor of the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot. Source: Richard Drew/Pasadena Star News via AP

His lawyer, Angela Berry, argued the board should base its decision on who Sirhan is today.

Prosecutors declined to participate or oppose his release under a policy by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, a former police officer who took office last year after running on a reform platform.

Gascon, who said he idolised the Kennedys and mourned RFK's assassination, believes the prosecutors' role ends at sentencing and they should not influence decisions to release prisoners.

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