Israeli legislators call on Obama to release Jewish spy

10:00, November 02, 2010      

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Members of the Israeli Knesset parliament are calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to pardon American-born spy Jonathan Pollard, having been jailed in a maximum security facility since 1985.

Dozens of parliamentarians from across the political spectrum on Sunday signed a letter asking Obama to release Pollard, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for handing classified documents to the Israeli intelligence while working as an analyst for the U.S. Navy.

Legislator Uri Ariel of the National Union party, who heads the "Free Pollard" lobby, initiated the letter to Obama, according to local daily Ma'ariv. He was joined by a group of activists and the Israeli Association of Social and Humanities Academics.

"A rare window of opportunity (to release Pollard) has recently opened in both Israel and the United States," Ariel said Sunday evening, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave for the United States next week and we are doing everything possible to make sure he doesn't miss that opportunity."

Pollard is a former civilian intelligence analyst who worked for the U.S. Naval Investigative Service (NIS) division. The security clearance he was granted enabled him access to highly classified information. In 1984, he met a member of the Israeli intelligence and began passing him sensitive materials which included, among other things, a manual that detailed America's global electronic surveillance network.

Israel officially denied any connection to Pollard immediately following his capture in 1985, a policy it maintained until 1998. Some Israeli politicians have since lobbied for his release, including Netanyahu, who visited him in prison in 2002.

Several high-profile U.S. officials, including legislators, a former CIA director and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in recent years pleaded various U.S. administrations to grant Pollard clemency.

The letter signed Sunday by Israeli legislators follows an op- ed published last Thursday in the Los Angeles Times by Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, who wrote that Pollard's punishment "doesn't fit the crime."

"Pollard has already served far too long for the crime for which he was convicted, and by now, whatever facts he might know would have little effect on national security," Korb wrote.

In their letter to Obama, the Israeli parliamentarians note that Israel has already taken responsibility for Pollard's actions and apologized.

"Even senior officials in your administration, including your deputy, Joe Biden, and your advisor, Dennis Ross, have supported the claim that Pollard must be freed after serving more than ample prison time for the offense he committed," the letter reads.

Esther Pollard, wife of the convicted spy, said on Sunday her husband's health is fast deteriorating behind bars.

Regarding Netanyahu's scheduled meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden next week, she said she hoped the Israeli premier would pass on the request to "do the right thing and put an end to a 25-year nightmare."

Source: Xinhua


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