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Yigal Amir to vote in Israel elections

By
MICHELE GERSHBERG

JERUSALEM, May 27 -- Israeli prison officials completed Monday the conditions under which Yigal Amir -- convicted of the Nov. 4 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin -- will vote in the May 29 national elections, a prison authority spokesman said. 'We don't need to make this a procedural issue,' prison authority spokesman Aryeh Bibi told Israel Radio. He said no extratordinary security measures are planned despite Amir's status as a high-security prisoner. 'We are not bringing in a special commando unit,' Bibi said. A law granting Israeli prisoners voting rights will allow Amir to choose his preferred candidate from his solitary confinement cell when an itinerant elections committee hands him his ballot. 'It makes one's stomach turn to think someone like this can vote,' said Israel's ruling Labor party spokesman Haim Cohen. Rabin's assassination sent shock waves through an Israeli public that believed the country was committed to democratic principles of change and not radical coup d'etats. 'We punish the person, but we don't take away their basic rights because this affects the state of the nation,' said Uriel Lynn, head of the committee for electoral reform, explaining the motivation behind the law. Cohen insisted Labor supported the rationale behind allowing every Israeli citizen the vote, adding, 'The lesson will be learned only after the elections.' This year 6,500 prisoners will be eligible to vote at 30 polling stations in jails nationwide. The law excludes prisoners who do not have Israeli citizenship and identity papers, but Bibi said jail officials will make sure even suspects arrested within 24 hours of election day will be able to exercise their right.

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Hospitalized invalids and psychiatric patients are also newly eligible to vote for the 14th Knesset (Israeli parliament). 'The fact the murderer remains among the voters is just one grotesque permutation of a general law,' said political science professor Bernard Susser from Israel's Bar-Ilan University -- the school where Amir had studied law and computers before the assassination. 'Yigal Amir killed a prime minister,' Lynn said. 'But there are people who committed even more heinous crimes, like rape.'

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