Libai and Reno Discuss Pollard, Extradition Treaty

Hillel Kuttler - The Jerusalem Post - December 2, 1993

Justice Minister David Liba'i discussed the case of Jonathan Pollard with US Attorney General Janet Reno this week, but received no hint of what recommendations she would make to President Bill Clinton on the matter.

In an hour-long meeting at the Justice Department late on Tuesday, Liba'i presented Israel's request that Pollard be freed and the convicted spy's life sentence be commuted to time served.

"We released spies. Now we have released hundreds, maybe thousands of Palestinians who earned punishment by harming Israel's security. In this atmosphere, it's hard for the Israeli public to understand Israel's release [of the Palestinian prisoners], but that when it requests the release of one person from the US, it would be refused," Liba'i told Israeli journalists yesterday.

While he told Reno he understood Pollard's "harsh punishment," Liba'i stated that at the same time, the US "at some point reduces sentences due to humanitarian or political reasons."

Reno took copious notes on each point Liba'i made, he said, and promised she would weigh all arguments heavily when she prepares her recommendation for Clinton.

The Justice Department's consideration of Pollard's early release is now in the hands of Deputy Attorney-General Philip B. Heymann, who is expected to pass his recommendation to Reno soon.

"There is no timetable, but obviously this is the time of year when such matters are reviewed," the department's spokesman, Carl Stern, told The Jerusalem Post yesterday, adding that "I wouldn't expect it to reach the attorney-general this week."

In their meeting, Liba'i also suggested that Israel might agree to amend its laws to allow for Israeli citizens to stand trial in the US for crimes committed there. However, it would only be considered if the US would allow the accused, if found guilty, to serve his sentence in Israel if he so requests, Liba'i said.

The US has been seeking changes to a 1978 Israeli law prohibiting the extradition from Israel of an Israeli citizen for a crime committed on foreign soil. That law runs counter to paragraph four of the countries' extradition treaty, stating that neither country could refuse an extradition request from the other.

The disputed law did not apply in the cases of Robert and Rochelle Manning, because they acquired Israeli citizenship after the California murder for which the US requested their extradition.

In an unrelated matter, the deputy attorney-general for the criminal division, Mark Richard, will visit Israel next week to discuss agreements on exchanging evidence for US criminal trials.

Justice4JP Note

In a subsequent meeting with Jonathan Pollard's wife, Esther, in Jerusalem early in 1994, Justice Minister Libai described his meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno. Libai said he had pleaded with Reno for Pollard's release at that meeting. He said that he had presented the Attorney General with the facts and that it is well known that Jonathan did not do the damage that the Americans allege. Libai spoke to Mrs. Pollard of his frustration with Reno's cold and unreasonable attitude to the Pollard issue and said that he could not comprehend her "hard heart". Libai added that he did not understand what the Americans wanted to prove by treating her husband's case in this manner.