54 Orthodox rabbis excommunicate Amir

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The petition reads: "There was not and cannot be halachic [religious legal] backing for the terrible murder committed by Amir. We express deep shock and disgust at the impertinent attempt to present such a heinous murder as if it were done in the name of the Torah and in the service of the people and land of Israel."

Amir is serving a life sentence for the murder.

At his trial, Amir refused to express regret for his actions, saying they were justified by Jewish law. Rumors have long circulated that at least a few Israeli rabbis had ruled that Rabin could be killed because he planned to give up parts of Israel as part of the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The rabbi who initiated the petition, Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg of the Har Adar settlement, said he expected more rabbis to sign the document. He added that all ethnic groups and streams in religious Zionism are represented among the signatories.

The paper said rabbis from five Jewish settlements were among those who signed. Jewish settlers were some of the strongest opponents of Rabin's peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Rabbi Binyamin Lau, nephew of Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, also signed the decree.

The ban will remain in effect until Amir, who is Orthodox, repents for the assassination.

Amir's mother derided the decree. "My son is alone in a jail cell. With whom is he to conduct a minyan?" Geula Amir said.

"It's a joke. Nobody listens to" the rabbis, she added.