Sirhan Sirhan

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Sirhan Sirhan (1969)

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan ( Arabic سرحان بشارة سرحان, DMG Sirḥān Bišāra Sirḥān ; * March 19, 1944 in Jerusalem ) is a Palestinian convicted of murder on June 5, 1968 for the assassination attempt on US Senator Robert F. Kennedy . He has since served a life sentence in California .

Early life

Sirhan grew up in a Christian family of Greek Orthodox denomination, initially in the Musrara district of Jerusalem, which was shared by Jews and Arabs. His father Bishara Sirhan worked for the British Mandate Administration, which ruled until 1948 . As a child, Sirhan Sirhan experienced numerous violent clashes in the immediate vicinity, which culminated with the Palestinian War. According to his mother Mary Sirhan, a bomb attack by the Irgun Tzwa'i Le'umi on Arab civilians at the Damascus Gate , which Sirhan Sirhan narrowly escaped, the death of a soldier who was torn to pieces by a bomb in front of his eyes, were particularly traumatic for him especially the death of his older brother when he was hit by a bombed military truck in his presence. In May 1948, the family had to leave their house, which had previously been occupied by the Hagana , with all their property and flee to the Arab eastern sector of the city that was divided by the war. The Sirhans, who had become refugees, spent the next eight years with no regular income and under precarious living conditions. The experiences of the Nakba and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were formative for the young Sirhan. The Palestinian national consciousness and the idea of ​​resistance against Israel were also cultivated by the patriotically minded teachers of his school days.

In 1956, thanks to a sponsorship of friendly US citizens from Pasadena , the Sirhans were able to emigrate to California as part of an immigration program for Palestinian refugees . Sirhan's parents separated shortly afterwards and the father left the rest of the family alone and moved to his original hometown of Taybeh in the now-Jordan-administered Palestinian West Bank . Mary Sirhan, now a single parent, worked as an assistant teacher at a nurses' school in Pasadena. Sirhan Sirhan went to college after graduating from high school with good grades, but dropped out. He now wanted to be a jockey , which is why he first became a stable boy and rode racehorses. In September 1966, while riding, he suffered a serious fall with head injuries that ended his ambitions. According to his family, his character changed as a result, as he became increasingly moody. After a year of unemployment, he began to work in the camp and as a messenger for a health food store in September 1967 and later also lived on compensation for pain and suffering from the occupational accident insurance, which was awarded to him in early 1968 after a lawsuit for falling. After his release in March 1968, which had preceded numerous arguments with his employer, Sirhan was again unemployed.

The assassination

After an event at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 4 to June 5, 1968, at which Robert F. Kennedy celebrated the same day victory in the California primary for the Democratic Party presidential nomination , Kennedy left after his Address the hall through the adjacent serving room of the hotel kitchen. Sirhan was waiting there with a .22 caliber eight-shot Iver Johnson revolver after the depiction of the court . From about two meters away, Sirhan fired at Kennedy and his companion. Three bullets struck Robert Kennedy and immediately knocked him to the ground; another bullet grazed him and wounded campaign worker Paul Schrade. Sirhan fired the remaining ammunition at other Kennedy's employees. Robert Kennedy died from his injuries 26 hours after the attack in hospital. He was the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, who was also assassinated in 1963 . According to witness statements, Sirhan shouted immediately after the crime: "I did it for my country!"

The criminal process

The defense and the public prosecutor's office initially wanted to avoid a sentence on the death penalty by agreeing that Sirhan would receive a life sentence in return for an admission of guilt. Contrary to the willingness of the public prosecutor's office, however, the presiding judge rejected such or similar agreements. The method of murder was finally on January 7, 1969 in front of a jury opened and lasted until 14 April. A total of 90 witnesses gave testimony within 14 weeks. On the fourth day of their deliberation, the jury found Sirhan guilty of the murder.

Sirhan was sentenced to death in the gas chamber on April 23, 1969 . After the California Supreme Court suspended the death penalty as unconstitutional in 1972, Sirhan's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, along with the 106 other convicts.

Sirhan's account of the events

Sirhan has provided conflicting claims about his role over the years since the fact. During the trial, he stated that he could not remember what happened himself. He testified in court that he only regained consciousness when he was arrested a few minutes after the attack. A diary was found in Sirhan's hotel room in which the sentence “RFK must die” was noted over and over again in an unusually repetitive manner. Sirhan was initially portrayed as a "deranged religious fanatic" in his trial.

In a pardon hearing in 2011, his lawyers put forward the thesis that he had been under hypnosis , so that his mind and the inhibition threshold to commit an assassination, as well as any memory were completely eliminated. Sirhan stated that he was under the influence of a young woman who lured him into the kitchen. His attorney interviewed him under hypnosis, claiming that a mysterious woman touched him before shooting and then tricked him into believing he was on a shooting range . Under hypnosis, Sirhan also stated that he had seen a second gun fire, a statement he could not confirm without hypnosis because he said he could not remember.

Sirhan stated in his 15th pardon hearing in 2016 that he did not remember the crime he was charged with. He could remember being at the hotel, going to his car and returning when he found he had been drinking too much alcohol. He attributed his conviction to his poor lawyer, who made him believe that he was guilty. He said he could not admit remorse for the crime since he did not commit it.

Detention and efforts to obtain release

After decades in the high-security section of Corcoran Penitentiary , Sirhan has been incarcerated in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga (California) since November 2009 and in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego since 2013 .

For many years he has been trying, with the support of, among others, Kennedy's election worker Paul Schrade, who was himself injured in the assassination, to get a new trial to establish his innocence. Kennedy's son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., also has doubts that Sirhan Sirhan actually shot his father. He therefore calls for a new investigation.

Sirhan has regularly used the opportunity to apply for early release since the end of the seven-year minimum imprisonment in his case. In February 2016, Sirhan's 15th pardon was rejected. After a further five years, he can again apply for dismissal.

In the 1970s, the militant Palestinian organizations Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Black September tried unsuccessfully after holding several hostages to release Sirhan as one of several Palestinians imprisoned for violent acts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - for example when four airliners were kidnapped in the Jordanian one desert in September 1970 of the kidnapping of a Boeing 747 of Lufthansa from New Delhi to Aden in February 1972, during an attack on the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum in March 1973. in August 2019 Sirhan was hurt by a fellow inmate with a knife.


Based on the suspicion that Sirhan was under the influence of hypnosis, Derren Brown reenacted the possibility of using hypnosis to assassinate a person in a television program on Channel 4 .


  • Mel Ayton: The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Potomac Books, Washington DC 2007, ISBN 978-1-59797-459-2 (English).
  • William Klaber, Philip H. Melanson: Shadow Play: The Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, the Trial of Sirhan Sirhan, and the Failure of American Justice , St. Martin's, New York NY 1997, ISBN 0-312-15398-8 , (English).
  • Shane O'Sullivan: Who Killed Bobby? The unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy , Union Square Press, New York NY 2008, ISBN 978-1-4027-5444-9 , (English).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Cynthia Gorney: Sirhan, in: The Washington Post of August 20, 1979, accessed on January 31, 2017 (English)
  2. Stephen Kinzer : Shot heard round the world, in: The Guardian, June 13, 2008, accessed January 31, 2017
  3. Mel Ayton: The Forgotten Terrorist. P. 64
  4. Ayton: The Forgotten Terrorist. P. 64f
  5. Ayton: The Forgotten Terrorist. Pp. 68-70
  6. Dietrich Strothmann: The murderer without a face, in: Die Zeit from June 14, 1968, accessed on January 31, 2017
  7. Dieter E. Zimmer: Out of nowhere into posterity: Murder as the politicization of private misery, in: Die Zeit from May 22, 1981, accessed on January 31, 2017
  8. Ayton: The Forgotten Terrorist. Pp. 91-93
  9. The History of Capital Punishment in California, official website of the California Department of Justice, accessed January 31, 2017.
  10. ^ Under hypnosis, RFK assassin says girl manipulated him. In: New Haven Register , April 29, 2011.
  11. Michael Martinez: Convicted RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan seeks prison release. CNN International , November 27, 2011, accessed January 28, 2012 .
  12. a b Robert F Kennedy's killer loses 15th parole bid as witness says: 'It's my fault' in: The Guardian , February 11, 2016, accessed February 11, 2016
  13. Michael Rothfeld: Sirhan Sirhan moved to Coalinga prison. In: Los Angeles Times , November 2, 2009 (English)
  14. [1]
  15. Michael Martinez, Brad Johnson: Attorneys for RFK convicted killer Sirhan push 'second gunman' argument. In: CNN International , March 13, 2012 (English).
  16. " RFK, Jr is not convinced Sirhan Sirhan killed his father " , Irish Central, Sept. 13, 2019, cf. See also " Robert F. Kennedy Murder: Son Calls for New Investigation, " Yahoo News, May 28, 2018
  17. Mark Ensalaco: Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2012, p. 23 (English)
  18. Ensalaco: Middle Eastern Terrorism. P. 32
  19. On This Day 1973: Palestinian gunmen hold diplomats in Sudan, in: BBC , accessed February 1, 2017 (English)
  20. ^ Knife attack on Robert Kennedy's murderer In: , August 31, 2019.
  21. Derren Brown: The Experiments. In: Channel 4 . Retrieved January 28, 2012 .