Labor MK files petition to block party that seeks freedom for Rabin assassin
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2020 Knesset elections

Labor MK files petition to block party that seeks freedom for Rabin assassin

If allowed to run, party founded by family of killer Yigal Amir would receive free airtime on TV and radio, funded by taxpayer

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Larissa Trimbobler, wife of Yigal Amir, seen at court in Lod on September 19, 2019 (Flash90)
Larissa Trimbobler, wife of Yigal Amir, seen at court in Lod on September 19, 2019 (Flash90)

Labor MK Itzik Shmuli filed a petition Tuesday with the Central Elections Committee calling on it to ban a political party founded by the family of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally 24 years ago.

The party, Mishpat Tzedek (Fair Trial), is headed by Amir’s wife, Larissa Trimbobler-Amir, and is calling for a retrial for the convicted killer and “all other innocent people unjustly incarcerated.”

According to Shmuli, “Democracy does not have to open the door for those who fired three bullets in the back [of the prime minister] and now come to confirm the kill.”

The Central Elections Committee, which is staffed by lawmakers and headed by Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, will hold deliberations on Tuesday and Wednesday on calls to disqualify candidates and parties from the March election.

Larissa Amir, wife of the prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, arrives at the Central Elections Committee to register a party to run in the upcoming elections, January 14, 2020. (Yonathan Sindel/Flash90)

Every party allowed to run receives taxpayer-funded radio and television advertising time, a situation Shmuli says is unacceptable for those linked to Amir.

Shmuli said Yigal Amir was behind the new party, which seeks “to get him released from prison and disseminate his poisonous hate.”

Labor-Gesher party MK Itzik Shmuli at a party conference in Tel Aviv, on January 14, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Unlike in the US, radio and television ads in Israel are highly regulated. According to the decades-old Elections Law (Campaigning Methods) of 1959, each party registered in the election is eligible to at least seven minutes of state-funded TV airtime over the week and a further 15 minutes on the radio. Additionally, incumbent parties get an extra two minutes of screen time and four minutes of airtime per serving Knesset member.

The system was created to give parties like Mishpat Tzedek, or any of the other 22 factions currently polling well below the electoral threshold, a fair playing field in the battle for the voting public’s attention.

Amir, now 49, is serving a life sentence for the assassination of Rabin. He remains in solitary confinement, though he got married while in prison in 2004 after a protracted legal struggle.

The case against Amir was clear-cut: He was caught on video raising a gun to Rabin. He calmly confessed to the police, reenacted the crime for them and never recanted his testimony.

Yigal Amir, the convicted assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a court hearing in Tel Aviv, November 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Still, fringe conspiracy theories have emerged positing a number of possibilities other than Amir being the assassin. The theories rely on some purportedly ambiguous facts surrounding the night of the murder: claims that the bullets were blanks, witnesses who say they didn’t see blood at the scene, an abnormally long drive to a very nearby hospital.

Previous attempts to have Amir freed based on the conspiracy theories have fallen flat.

Both the court that convicted Amir and the subsequent Shamgar Commission established to investigate the chain of events leading up to the assassination rejected the conspiracy claims and concluded that Amir was guilty of murder.

Trimbobler-Amir, who has long campaigned to free her husband, said on Tuesday that “only we can do it, not the politicians, they don’t care.”

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