Israel to ask U.S. to release jailed spy for father's funeral

08:30, June 20, 2011      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government will make a diplomatic request to ask the United States to release Jonathan Pollard, a jailed Israeli agent, for his father's funeral, reported local media.

Meanwhile, family members and supporters of Pollard are slated to gather Sunday evening outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and call on President Barack Obama to allow the jailed spy attend his father's funeral.

Morris Pollard passed away on Saturday at the age of 95.

Administration officials, however, turned down requests by American Jewish leaders and Israeli lawmakers a week prior to his death that his son be allowed to part from him.

The Committee for the Release of Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli lobbying group, will lead Sunday's protest in front of the Tel Aviv embassy and call on Obama to "show some humanity" by allowing Pollard attend the burial in Indiana on Monday, according to the Arutz Sheve news service.

Pollard, who is serving a life term for passing classified information to Israel, had been allowed to speak with his father by telephone last week.

American-born Pollard worked as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Naval Investigative Service at the time of his arrest in 1985.

He was convicted on spying charges for passing Israel intelligence sensitive materials, which included a manual that detailed America's global electronic surveillance network, and was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

Israel officially denied any connection to Pollard immediately following his capture, a policy it maintained until 1998. Since then, Israeli politicians have increasingly lobbied for his release, including Netanyahu, who visited him in the maximum security facility in which he is incarcerated in 2002.

Several high-profile U.S. officials - past and present - including a former Central Intelligence Agency director and serving Senators, in recent years joined the calls to grant Pollard clemency.

More than 70 Israeli parliamentarians signed a petition over the weekend calling on Obama to allow Pollard to visit his father. The signatories are now demanding that he be released for the funeral.

Uri Ariel, a lawmaker from the National Unity Party and head of the "Free Pollard" lobby in parliament, on Sunday called on U.S. leaders to plead with the American president to grant Pollard's release. "Not just for the funeral, but from prison," Uriel told Israel Radio.

Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli-Arab lawmaker, said that "the attack on the U.S. administration" being led by Israeli politicians for its alleged cruelty, is "typical Israel hypocrisy."

"People in glass houses should not throw stones. Israel consistently denies Palestinian prisoners from attending their parents' funerals," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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