The unrepentant brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was released from prison after serving 16 1/2 years for complicity in a murder that stunned Israel, and according to some destroyed an opportunity for peace.
Hagai Amir, 43, is not known to have expressed remorse for his role in the death, and upon his release on Friday, he told Israel Radio, "I am proud of what I did."
Amir helped plan the 1995 killing. His brother Yigal Amir, an ultra-nationalist Jewish extremist, is serving a life sentence for killing the prime minister after a Tel Aviv peace rally.
Channel 2 TV showed several dozen peace activists outside the prison ahead of Amir’s release holding signs reading, "We won’t forgive, we won’t forget."
As Amir exited the prison and was whisked away in a white van, they chanted "disgrace."
Amir was greeted by his mother and was expected to be taken to a relative’s house in a Jewish West Bank settlement for his first night of freedom.
"Sixteen and a half years have passed and it is painful and insulting as if it were yesterday and I want to scream but what more is left to say?" Noa Rothman, Rabin’s granddaughter, wrote on her Facebook page.
Amir was originally sentenced to 16 years, but that time was extended by six months after he was convicted of threatening the life of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2006. He spent most of his prison years in isolation.
The Amir brothers opposed Rabin’s policy of trading land to the Palestinians for peace.
Rabin’s killing shocked not only Israelis but also the world, which had pinned its hopes on the former general’s bold peace agenda.
Some argue that his murder radically changed the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Rabin was a war hero who Israelis trusted to negotiate peace, even if that meant conceding lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. During his tenure, he signed the Oslo accords and a peace treaty with Jordan.
"Yigal Amir fired three shots to Rabin’s back but he also fired three shots to the heart of … the state of Israel. It’s fair to say today that since the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, we are not the same country,” former politician Danny Yatom, a confidant of Rabin, told Israel radio.
Rabin’s daughter Dalia told Israeli news website Ynet on Thursday that Haggai should never go free.
"People like that belong behind bars forever," she said.
(Agencies via Al Jazeera)