Trial arguments close for confessed assassin

JERUSALEM — Arguments in the trial of Yigal Amir came to a close this week, with the defense contending that murder charges against the confessed assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin should be dropped.

After two months of testimony, the defense and prosecution rested their cases in Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday, leaving Amir's fate in the hands of a three-judge panel.

Their verdict is not expected for several weeks, lawyers said after Judge Edmond Levy adjourned the court Sunday.

In her closing remarks, prosecutor Pnina Guy argued that Amir, a 25-year-old law student, should be convicted of premeditated murder.

"The defendant used the words `kill' and `murder' dozens of times during his interrogation and here on the witness stand to describe his actions," she said. "He expressed no remorse. On several occasions, he said he was proud of killing the prime minister and vowed that he would do it all over again."

She also asked the justices to accept the opinion of three psychiatrists who examined Amir and concluded that he did not suffer any mental or emotional disturbances, temporary or otherwise.

Amir has pleaded innocent to charges of premeditated murder. He said he wanted to paralyze Rabin in order to remove him from the political arena and stop him from continuing the peace process with the Palestinians.

Defense attorney Shmuel Fleishman said the premeditated murder charge, which carries a maximum life sentence, should be dropped because his client did not intend to kill the prime minister.

Another defense attorney, Gabi Shahar, asked the court to convict his client only of attempting to kill Rabin, because the possibility of a second gunman could not be ruled out.

Shahar said Amir had testified that his pistol was loaded with nine bullets Nov. 4, the night he shot Rabin leaving a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Amir fired three times at point-blank range, Shahar said. Two bullets hit the prime minister, and one hit and wounded a bodyguard. But, he also said, eight bullets were later found in Amir's gun, in a clip that could hold 13.

If there were nine bullets to begin with, "how do you get a clip with eight bullets left over, after firing three times?" Shahar asked.

He then floated a theory that "someone topped off the clip with blanks and then fired at Rabin using a different gun equipped with a silencer at the very moment Amir pulled the trigger."

Several witnesses testified that someone shouted, "Blanks, blanks" when Amir fired, but the person has remained unidentified.

The judge interrupted Shahar's argument several times, at one point ordering him to "stop with the innuendos."

"It's not enough to cast doubt on evidence and suggest various theories," Levy said. "You have to support your theories."

The judge said he would soon announce when the court would hand down its verdict.