Pollard seeks to block Palestinian prisoner release

November 16, 1998

JERUSALEM, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew serving a life term in the United States for spying for Israel, petitioned an Israeli court on Monday to block the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners until he is freed.

A petition to Israel's High Court of Justice said U.S. President Bill Clinton promised during the U.S. Middle East peace summit last month to free him in exchange for Israel's release of hundreds of Palestinians and other concessions.

"Jonathan's petition requests an immediate court injuction to freeze the release of terrorist prisoners from Israeli prisons until his own release from an American prison is first secured," his wife Esther Pollard told Reuters.

"Mr Clinton caved in to CIA chief George Tenet's threats and reneged on his commitment to release Pollard but apparently still expects Israel to uphold its end of the deal," she said.

Clinton, who mediated the latest Israeli-Palestinian accord negotiated at Wye River in Maryland last month, denies promising Pollard's release but pledged to review his case.

Pollard, a 40-year-old former U.S. naval intelligence analyst who passed secrets to Israel, has been in prison since 1985.

In a last-minute manoeuvre at the Wye summit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed the signing of the land-for-security deal, demanding that Pollard's release be included.

Israel agreed in the deal to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and a Palestinian negotiator said on Sunday he expected a first group would be released late this week.

A New York Times report published earlier this month said Tenet threatened to resign if Pollard was released.