March 3, 2011 / 12:20 AM / 8 years ago

Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan denied parole

COALINGA, California (Reuters) - The man serving a life sentence for the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy was denied parole for a 13th time on Wednesday, California corrections officials said.

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan in a 2009 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation photo. REUTERS/Handout

Sirhan Sirhan’s latest bid for freedom was rejected after a hearing before the Board of Parole Hearings at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California, where he is being held.

Sirhan, 66, will be eligible for another parole review in five years, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

The board did not immediately say why it denied Sirhan parole.

His lawyer, William Pepper, said that Sirhan was innocent of the assassination and has been treated unfairly.

“From what we’ve seen this afternoon, we’re very disappointed and we’re very hurt for a man whose been spending time confined when he met every one of the criteria for suitability to be released,” Pepper said.

“They ignored everything we had to say and went on the emotional kick of losing a presidential candidate and loss of a national leader,” he said.

Sirhan was wrestled to the ground with a gun in his hand after Kennedy was shot to death on June 4, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the night he won the California Democratic presidential primary.

Sirhan, who moved to the United States with his family as a child, was initially sentenced to death for the assassination of the senator, brother to slain President John F. Kennedy.

That sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, after the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

It was Sirhan’s 14th appearance before a parole board, but it was the 13th time that he was eligible for release on parole and was denied, said Doug Roberts, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

At a 2003 hearing where he was also denied parole, a state Board of Prison Terms panel found Sirhan’s anger and ability to cope had worsened, and that he would pose a risk to society if released. He was denied parole again in 2006.

Pepper, has suggested that Sirhan was brainwashed to target Kennedy, telling ABC News in an interview earlier this week: “There is no question he was hypno-programed.”

At his trial, Sirhan declared that he killed Kennedy “with 20 years of malice aforethought.”

The Palestinian-born Sirhan’s motive was said to have been anger about U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb. Editing by Peter Bohan

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