Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy stable after prison stabbing

Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy stable after prison stabbing
Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian convicted of the 1968 assassination of US Senator Robert Kennedy is in a stable condition after being stabbed by a fellow inmate at a California prison.
3 min read
01 September, 2019
Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of killing US Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 [Getty]

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Palestinian imprisoned for more than 50 years for the 1968 assassination of US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was hospitalized on Friday after being stabbed by a fellow inmate at a prison in San Diego, California.

A statement from the California state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the stabbing occurred on Friday afternoon at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego.

"Officers responded quickly, and found an inmate with stab wound injuries. He was transported to an outside hospital for medical care, and is currently in stable condition," the statement said.

The statement did not name Sirhan, but a government source with direct knowledge confirmed to The Associated Press that he was the victim. The source spoke under condition of anonymity, citing prison privacy regulations.

Corrections officials reported that the alleged attacker has been identified and segregated from the rest of the prison population pending an investigation.

Sirhan, 75, was convicted of shooting Kennedy shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, immediately after the New York senator and brother of President John F. Kennedy, who himself was assassinated in 1963, had declared victory in the previous day's California Democratic presidential primary.

Over the years, Sirhan has claimed to have no recollection of the shooting or his initial confession.

Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian who had been traumatized by the violence he had seen in the Arab-Israeli conflict, immigrated to the US with his family in 1956 when he was 12 years old.

He said that he had assassinated Robert Kennedy because of his pro-Israeli policies, particularly his plans to sell 50 American-made bomber aircraft to Israel in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

He also claimed to be drunk at the time of the assassination.

However, after a meeting with Sirhan in 2018, Robert F. Kennedy’s son Robert Jr. said he believed that Sirhan did not kill his father and that a second gunman was involved.

On the night of June 5, 1968, Kennedy had just finished delivering his victory speech to cheering supporters at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel when he decided to walk through the hotel kitchen. He had stopped to shake hands with a busboy who had delivered food to his room the day before when he was shot in the head. He died the next day.

Sirhan was originally sentenced to death. But when California briefly outlawed capital punishment, his sentence was reduced to life in prison. He has been denied parole multiple times.

Five bystanders were wounded during the shooting. In the chaos, Los Angeles Rams football great Rosey Grier, Olympic champion Rafer Johnson and others wrestled the murder weapon away.

As a high-profile prisoner, Sirhan had once been kept in a protective housing unit at Corcoran State Prison in Northern California. After he told authorities several years ago that he would prefer being housed with the general prison population, he was moved to the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.