Deal Reached on Pollard March

Etgar Lefkovits - Jerusalem Post - November 13, 2003

At the urging of the Supreme Court, supporters of imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard and Jerusalem police reached a compromise Thursday over the route of a solidarity march through the city next week.

Meanwhile, a US federal judge on Thursday rejected Jonathan Pollard's latest attempt to fight his life sentence for passing military secrets to Israel.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan, who is chief judge of the court, also noted in a blunt order that Pollard seemed to have little hope of winning a presidential pardon.

Hogan's ruling means Pollard will remain in a federal prison and that his lawyers will not win access to sensitive U.S. government documents they hoped would help sway the White House to free their client.

The Sunday afternoon rally in Jerusalem, which will coincide with the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities in protest over the lack of support Pollard has received from the American Jewish leadership, will begin with a massive prayer vigil at the Western Wall, an event which is expected to attract about 15,000 people.

After failing to receive police permission for a march from the Western Wall through the city center to the International Convention Center, where the GA is meeting, organizers took the police to court.

A three-judge panel, led by Supreme Court Justice Theodore Or, told the sides that the Pollard issue was important to the courts, and urged both rally organizers and police to come to a compromise among themselves within four hours, Pollard's Israeli attorney Larry Dub said.

According to the agreement reached by the two sides during the allotted time, participants will march from the Western Wall to the Jaffa Gate, and then be bused to Sacher Park, where they will resume their march, Pollard activist and court petitioner Eli Yosef said.

Originally, police had suggested that the group be bused directly to the convention center in order not to create massive traffic jams in the city center.

But organizers flatly refused, noting that one day later GA participants will themselves be marching through downtown Jerusalem.

The sides also agreed that the demonstration will be held both outside the ICC and in an area between the convention center and the Central Bus Station to avoid overcrowding. Jerusalem police declined comment Thursday on the issue.

But Pollard's attorney accused the police of "trying to keep a minimum of interference" with the GA meeting by refusing to grant approval for the march from the start.

"It seems that many people want to keep the Pollard issue quiet," he said.

A former US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard has served 18 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel.

Arrested in the US in 1985 for spying for Israel, Pollard accepted a plea bargain a year later in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage.

However, in a highly unusual move, the American government then reneged on the shorter prison term they had promised him in return for his plea bargain, and in March 1987 sentenced him to life in prison.

In the decade and a half since his sentencing, successive US administrations have rejected repeated requests for clemency. Israeli efforts to attain Pollard's released peaked during the Netanyahu administration, when the former premier asked former president Bill Clinton for clemency for Pollard during peace talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland.

Clinton agreed to favorably review the case, and reached what Israeli political sources termed at the time 'a tacit understanding' Pollard would be released as part of the peace process.

But following media leaks, and the outcry and rabid opposition from some officials in the US intelligence community, including CIA Director George Tenet who reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton acceded to Netanyahu's request for a pardon - the former president then backpedaled from the understanding, and Pollard remained in jail.

It was during Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister that Israel acknowledged he had worked for its intelligence apparatus and granted him citizenship.