Israeli High Court Rebuffs Pollard

November 17, 1998 - The Washington Post

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's Supreme Court rejected a challenge to one aspect of the Mideast peace deal, dismissing an effort to block Israel from releasing Palestinian prisoners until Jonathan Pollard is released as well.

Attorneys for Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, petitioned the court to halt the releases, arguing his family had been promised he would be freed under the deal signed last month at the Wye summit in Maryland.

Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina, was convicted of turning over secret documents to Israel while serving as a naval intelligence officer.

His case was highlighted recently when Israel tried to hinge its agreement to a U.S.-brokered peace accord with the Palestinians on Pollard's release. President Clinton said he would review Pollard's case.

Pollard's wife, Esther, said Tuesday that the court had failed to recognize a commitment she said she was given by the Israeli government to ensure her husband's release as part of the Mideast peace deal.

"The fact is that we had a clear promise from the prime minister and the Cabinet that not a single terrorist would go free until Jonathan's release was assured," she said.

Supreme Court spokesman Moshe Gorali said the court found no such promise had been made by the government and added that "the Supreme Court won't intervene in politics."

Under the peace deal, which was expected to be approved by the Israeli parliament later Tuesday, Israel is to release about 750 Palestinian prisoners.

Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani's spokesman Rafi Levy said that if the accords were approved as expected, 250 of those prisoners would be released Friday.