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Robert F Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan is granted parole at age of 77

Sirhan Sirhan pictured in 2011

Brendan O'Brien

Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee convicted of assassinating U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, was granted release by a California parole board on Friday, state prison officials said.

Whether Sirhan, 77, is ultimately freed from prison is now up to the parole board's legal staff which has 120 days to finalise the decision. The governor of California then has 30 days to let the decision stand or reverse it.

The Palestinian-born Sirhan is serving a life sentence for gunning down Kennedy (42), the brother of the slain John F Kennedy, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. The shooting occurred minutes after the U.S. senator from New York and former U.S. attorney general gave his victory speech after winning the California Democratic primary. Kennedy died the next day.

Sirhan has said he had no recollection of the killing, although he has also said he fired at Kennedy because he was enraged by his support for Israel.

Two members of the slain senator's family, including his son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sent letters to the parole board in support of his release, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sirhan's attorney Angela Berry told the newspaper her client has never been accused of a serious prison violation and that prison officials have deemed him a low risk.

Parole board officials and his attorney were not immediately available for comment.

Sirhan, who is imprisoned in San Diego, has been denied parole 15 times.

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