Esther Pollard in plea to Obama: Let Jonathan come home now

Campaign urging US president to pardon Israeli spy shifts gears ahead of visit; former Hamas captive Gilad Shalit signs petition, joining more than 100,000 others

Ron Friedman - The Times of Israel- March 12, 2013

Esther Pollard, wife of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, issued a heartfelt plea to US President Barack Obama Monday, urging him ahead of his upcoming visit to Israel to free her husband.

"Mr. President, all Jonathan and I are asking for is your compassion, your compassion and your mercy. People in this world have all kinds of great dreams that they want to accomplish. The greatest dream that Jonathan and I have is that he will be home for Passover this year, to sit next to me at the Passover Seder, to drink his cup of wine, finally, after 28 years, as a free man," said Esther in an interview to Channel 2 News. "We're expressing our profound remorse and sorrow for what has happened. We deeply appreciate your helping our nation, our people Israel, to recover from this terrible tragedy, so that we can move on in the strong friendship that has always existed between our two countries. To do so we are asking for your compassion. Please, please let Jonathan come home now for the Festival of Freedom here in Israel."

Esther said she spoke to her husband, who is serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel, a few hours before the interview and that he told her he hopes his saga will soon be over. "He wants to be home for Passover," she said. Esther also said that Pollard drew strength from the public campaign on his behalf and expressed thanks to all those who are taking part in it.

So far, more than 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the American president to pardon and release the 59-year-old, who started serving out his sentence for espionage in 1987.

Esther said that every time the couple talk on the phone, the first question her husband asks is "how many people signed the petition today?" She said the initiative "makes him feel like the public is finally behind him, that they haven't forgotten him. It invigorates him, gives him the strength to survive another day, another minute."

Last week, former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb joined the growing chorus of senior officials and former officials calling on Obama to pardon Pollard.

After nearly three decades in prison, Pollard no longer poses a threat to the US or its military secrets, Korb said following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Effie Lahav, a leading activist for Pollard's release.

"The time has long since come for Jonathan to go free," Netanyahu said at the meeting. "This issue will come up during President Obama's visit. It has already been raised countless times by myself and others, and the time has come for him to go free."

Esther said that if anybody can bring about the release of her husband it's President Shimon Peres. "I believe that because of President Peres' ability to speak to humanitarian concerns and express the desire of the entire public - compassion from the American president - I believe he can succeed. all that is needed is the will and ability," said Esther.

"I've raised [the issue] in previous meetings and I'll do everything possible to convey an unequivocal message: Jonathan Pollard must be released from jail for humanitarian reasons," Peres said last month.

The Jewish Agency has also called for a presidential pardon for the convicted spy, as did former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who urged Obama to let Pollard "live the rest of his life with his wife, Esther, in Israel, which has granted him citizenship."

On Monday, Pollard received the support of someone who knows all about being held prisoner, former kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit, who was freed from Hamas captivity a year and a half ago, wrote on his Facebook page that he signed the petition to free Pollard and urged others to do the same. "Freedom is a great gift. Thank you to all that acted on my behalf, now please join the campaign to save Pollard," he wrote.

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