Amir tells court he shot Rabin 'for God'

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Yigal Amir confessed yesterday to killing Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's prime minister, but said it was unpremeditated. In a rambling statement at the start of his trial, he said: "My aim was to shoot him in such a way as to end his activity as prime minister, either by paralysing him or, if there was no choice, by killing him."

Asked if he regretted murdering Rabin, Mr Amir, 25, a law student from a religious family, said: "No." He also said he carried out the assassination "for the greater glory of God". His lawyer said he had advised him not to make a statement but that it amounted to a plea of not guilty to premeditated murder.

Mr Amir's claim that he would have preferred to wound Rabin was contradicted by a policeman who spoke to him in the hours after the assassination. He said when he told Mr Amir, as a test, that Rabin was not dead, he appeared disappointed and said: "That cannot be."

Mr Amir also seemed to contradict himself when he admitted he fired twice more after the first shot to make sure Rabin would die. "I didn't want to leave any chance that he would stay alive as prime minister," he said.

There was an element of farce as the trial began in Tel Aviv, because of a dispute between Mr Amir's lawyers, Jonathan Goldberg and Mordechai Offri, who contradicted each other.

Mr Offri said there were differences over what line to take and at the end of the hearing, adjourned until Sunday, said he did not know if he was still representing Mr Amir.

Excerpts from Mr Amir's interrogation by the Shin Bet security agency throw light on his character and beliefs. He said once he was aware something was a religious commandment "there is no moral problem. If I was conquering the land now, I would have to kill babies and children, as it is written in [the Book of] Joshua."

On the question of how many people were involved in the plot to kill Rabin, Mr Amir and his brother Hagai were given repeated lie-detector tests. Asked "Are you hiding people from us who were involved in the preparation?" both said "No". The lie detector indicated that both were lying.

The police at first said they believed there was a conspiracy to kill Rabin but later backed away from the claim. A reason for this was the disclosure that one of those under arrest, Avishai Raviv, was a long-serving Shin Bet agent. The far right, under attack for creating the atmosphere of violence last year, began to say the government's agents provocateurs were involved in the assassination.

There was evidently a broad-ranging conspiracy to oppose by force the Oslo peace accords and the withdrawal from the West Bank. Its members were religious students at Bar-Ilan university, who had access to military equipment through the Golani Brigade, in which some of them had served.

They planned to attack Palestinian targets, but at least three, the Amir brothers and Dror Adoni, started to stalk Rabin and consider ways of assassinating him. On the night of 4 November, however, Yigal Amir apparently acted alone when he decided to wait for Rabin to leave a peace rally held in front of Tel Aviv city hall.