Lieberman Win Could Thwart Efforts to Release Pollard

August 9, 2000 - The Jerusalem Post - David Franklin

Sen. Joseph Lieberman's stand against the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard could mean trouble for efforts to release him, if the Al Gore-Lieberman ticket wins the November US presidential election, Pollard activists said Tuesday.

"We do not count on Joe Lieberman to be a friend of ours," said Larry Dub, an Israel-based attorney for Pollard. His client is currently serving the 15th year of a life sentence in a US jail, for spying on behalf of Israel.

A Web site that operates with Pollard's approval includes a "Lieberman Page " that has been given greater prominence with the news that the Democratic senator from Connecticut has been named the vice-presidential nominee.

The page contains what it says is the text of the letter sent in January 1999 to US President Bill Clinton by Lieberman and some 60 other senators, expressing "our strongest opposition to any commutation of the life sentence given Jonathan Pollard for betraying our country. We urge you to deny clemency in the interest of justice and in the interest of national security."

The page also includes the accusation leveled by Pollard activists that Lieberman is serving as "a willing tool of the CIA." "The best chances for getting him released will be between November, after the election, and January," before the inauguration of the new president, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Hoenlein argued that Clinton would be released from earlier "pressures" during those final two and-a-half months as president. He said that US Jewish leaders are making "ongoing efforts to raise the issue," but adds that the outgoing president would make such a move only "if the government of Israel puts a high priority on it." Hoenlein does not believe, however, that if the issue is put off a victorious Lieberman would be able to prevent a decision to release Pollard.

"The bottom line is that it's not going to depend on the vice president. It will depend on the president," he said.

The letter sent by the senators followed Clinton's pledge at the conclusion of the US-sponsored Wye talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a few months earlier, that he would review the possibility of commuting the sentence. The president has repeatedly been confronted by recommendations from different governmental branches not to allow Pollard to go free. It remains unclear whether Gore or Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush would be willing to overrule such pressure in agreeing to grant clemency if elected.

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