Obama administration torpedoes bid to free Pollard

Yori Yalon & Israel Hayom Staff - Israel Hayom - November 20, 2014

U.S. Justice Department parole board denies request to free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, with American officials saying Pollard's release would "constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law."

A U.S. Justice Department parole board has denied a request to free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, according to the Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard recently submitted a quiet request to be released under restricted conditions. However, American officials rejected the request, saying that freeing Pollard at this time would "constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law."

Pollard, 60, was arrested by U.S. authorities in 1985 and later sentenced to life in prison. In recent years, numerous former U.S. government officials -- including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former CIA director James Woolsey -- have openly and unequivocally called for Pollard's release, saying his punishment was disproportionate for the crime he committed, of spying for a friendly country.

Last March, Pollard's wife, Esther Pollard, personally appealed to U.S. President Barack Obama to free her husband.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said on Wednesday that the U.S. government's rigid position on Pollard "crosses every moral boundary."

"It seems to me that mercy has completely fallen off the ladder of [the U.S. government's] values," Edelstein said.

Edelstein, who was the first Israeli minister to visit Pollard in jail, said, "Every day that passes increases the fear that Jonathan, given his health condition, might not survive his time in prison. If, heaven forbid, this transpires, it would be remembered for generations as a breach in the Israel-U.S. relationship."

Pollard's supporters had been optimistic that his request for freedom would be granted this time, given that he was nearly released last spring as part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and that top U.S. intelligence officials do not oppose his release, having said it was not pertinent to them.

The Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard expressed shock and anger at the U.S. government's decision to prevent Pollard's release.

"The heart breaks at the thought that Jonathan will not be freed after 30 years in prison," the committee said. "The denial of the request proves that the regular bureaucratic path will not lead to justice for Jonathan."

The committee said Obama should use the right given to him by the U.S. Constitution to cut short an inmate's prison sentence "to redress the injustice" done to Pollard. "The regular procedure will not lead to this," the committee said.

Pollard has spent half his life in prison and his health has deteriorated significantly in recent years. He has required urgent medical treatment several times due to a life-threatening health condition, and has undergone surgery to stabilize his health.

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  • See Also: JPost: Pollard's Parole Plastering By Gil Hoffman: The Jerusalem Post reveals the drama behind the failure of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard's long-awaited parole hearing, which has been kept secret until now.