While the decision is a major victory for Sirhan Sirhan, his release is still subject to a review over 90 days by the California parole board and approval from the governor.
The Palestinian man was arrested, tried and convicted for fatally shooting Robert F Kennedy in June 1968 moments after the presidential hopeful won the California primaries.
The shooting allegedly was in response to Robert Kennedy’s support for Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War and came after the assassination of his brother John F Kennedy in 1963.
Sirhan Sirhan, aged 66, convicted of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, is seen during a Board of Parole Suitability Hearing on Wednesday, March 2, 2011. Picture: AP
Sirhan was 24 years old at the time of the shooting and was convicted of first-degree murder but claims he has no memory of the incident.
Robert Kennedy’s son Douglas Kennedy attended the hearing and said he was moved by Sirhan’s apparent remorse – arguing he should be released if he was no longer a public threat.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr Sirhan face-to-face,” he said. “I think I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another.
“I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.”
Prosecutors decided not to engage in Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing under a policy set up by the Los Angeles county district attorney George Gascon who took office in 2020.
Robert Kennedy’s assassin granted parole on 16th attempt
Mr Gascon believes prosecutors should no not be involved in cases beyond sentencing.
In the hearing the 77-year-old Sirhan said he had learned to control his anger and was committed to a life of peace.
“I would never put myself in jeopardy again,” he said. “You have my pledge. I will always look to safety and peace and non-violence,” he claimed.
While Douglas Kennedy supported Sirhan’s release other Kennedy family members and Los Angeles law enforcement officers sent in letters opposing the decision.
Senator Robert F Kennedy lies mortally wounded on pantry floor of Ambassador Hotel after being shot by Sirhan Sirhan. Picture: Supplied
When asked about his current views on the Middle East today, Sirhan broke down in tears but later admitted he does not follow what is going in in the region.
He sympathised with the plight of refugees and said “the misery that those people are experiencing. It’s painful”.
Sirhan was originally sentenced to death but the decision was commuted to life imprisonment when the California Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in 1972.
The last parole hearing took place in 2016 with the commissioner concluding Sirhan had not demonstrated sufficient remorse for his actions.

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