RFK's Widow Opposes His Assassin's Parole: 'An Unspeakable Loss'

"Our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man," Ethel Kennedy said in a statement

Ethel and Robert Kennedy
Ethel (left) and Robert Kennedy in 1966. Photo: Dick Morseman/Newsday RM via Getty

Robert F. Kennedy's widow has joined the majority of her children in opposing the recent decision to parole his assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, whom officials say is no longer a danger to society.

In a statement released Tuesday, Ethel Kennedy said that "our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man. We believe in the gentleness that spared his life, but in taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again."

A handwritten addition to Ethel's typed statement said, "He should not be paroled."

Ethel, now 93, also celebrated her husband's political career before he was murdered in 1968.

"Bobby believed we should work to 'tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world,' " she wrote. "He wanted to end the war in Vietnam and bring people together to build a better, stronger country."

"More than anything, he wanted to be a good father and loving husband," she wrote.

Sirhan, who has spent 53 years behind bars and was convicted of first-degree murder in 1969, was granted release last month during his 16th parole hearing, after parole officials found that he showed suitable remorse and rehabilitation and didn't pose a threat.

"The law says if somebody is no longer a danger to society, they must be released," his attorney told PEOPLE afterward. "So if we stick to the law, then the governor should go along with it."

Sirhan Sirhan arrives for a parole hearing, in San Diego. Sirhan faces his 16th parole hearing Friday for fatally shooting U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968
Sirhan Sirhan. Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock
Ethel Kennedy
Ethel Kennedy. Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

Sirhan's attorney said then that he was "happy" with but in "disbelief" over the decision and was "trying to still process it."

He has long insisted he had no memory of actually firing on Sen. Kennedy, who was then running for president, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Sirhan was reportedly motivated by anger at Sen. Kennedy over the latter's support of Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians. "RFK must die!" Sirhan wrote in his diary.

Before the parole vote takes affect, state officials have 120 days to review the decision followed by the governor, who has 30 days.

Sen. Kennedy's children have split over the outcome: Two of his sons, Douglas and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., supported parole.

According to a letter the younger Robert sent to the parole board (and later shared with PEOPLE), he wrote that "I believe that Mr. Sirhan is redeemed.

"At 77, he is a gentle, humble, kind hearted, frail and harmless old man who poses no threat to our community. His release will be testimony to the humanity, compassion and idealism of our justice system to which my father devoted his life."

Robert F. Kennedy and Sirhan Bishara Sirhan
Robert F. Kennedy (left) and Sirhan Sirhan. getty (2)

Robert Jr. has also long raised questions linked to conspiracy theories about his father's true assassin.

But the majority of the family, including six of Robert Jr.'s siblings and his mom, have called on the "unexpected" parole vote to be reversed.

It had, the siblings said, "inflicted enormous additional pain."

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