Judge Refuses Request to Open Pollard Case

"Higher Up" Orders Mistreatment

Hamodia Staff - Hamodia US News [front page feature] - November 21, 2003

A federal judge has rejected a request by Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel, to reopen his case and reconsider his 1987 sentence of life in prison.

At a September 2 hearing in Washington, D.C., Pollard's lawyers had asked U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas Hogan to reconsider a different judge's ruling in 2001 that had turned down Pollard's request to reassess his sentence.

In a 19-page ruling released this week, Judge Hogan turned down that request. He also rejected a second request by Pollard's lawyers to gain access to classified government documents that may help them request executive clemency.

"We are surprised and disappointed at Judge Hogan's ruling," said Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, Pollard's lawyers, in a statement. "Judge Hogan ruled that the motion to vacate Pollard's life sentence is barred by technical obstacles raised by the government. We are perplexed by the district court's reasoning. The sentencing issues in the Pollard case are too important to be dismissed on technicalities. We are disappointed that the U.S. government refuses to address the issues on their merits, and persists in hiding behind technicalities."

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, was shocked at the judge's ruling. "I was at the [September 2] hearing," he said. "The pro bono lawyers were brilliant. For the judge to come back and say that Pollard's lawyers do not need to see the information in order to present a proper case is hard to fathom. The ruling is way out of line in terms of judicial responsibility. It seems to be vicious."

Now, months later, Rabbi Lerner confirms details of a mysterious campaign of harsh mistreatment that Jonathan Pollard underwent at the hands of the U.S. government for two weeks before his September 2 court appearance. The details were also released by the Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA).

Although Washington is only a four- to five-hour drive from Pollard's prison, he was transferred to a Washington, D.C. prison, the Arlington Detention Center, two weeks before the hearing.

He was put into solitary confinement. He was not allowed books or newspapers. He was not allowed to have a pen or pencil or paper. His cell was opposite a small prison library. He pleaded for a book. His request was met with sympathy, but with a response he would hear for days; orders from "higher up" would not permit it.

Pollard was forced to wear the same clothes and underclothes for two weeks. Prison regulations allow for two sets of clothes. When Pollard requested fresh clothes, a staff member admitted there were orders from "higher up" not to give Pollard fresh clothing. He was not permitted tallis, teffilin, tehillim or a siddur. He was denied kosher food. He was not allowed to have visitors. For two weeks, Pollard was denied permission to shower or bathe. He was allowed one shower the day of the hearing, and he was shackled hand and foot.

"We tried to get him visiting rights," said Rabbi Lerner. "We talked to prison marshals, congressmen - we hit a brick wall. Someone 'higher up' had ordered this treatment. The (non-Jewish) chaplain tried to help. He got blocked. The congressmen were lied to."

The day of the hearing, Pollard was brought to the courthouse at 5:00 a.m., even though the hearing was set for 2 p.m. He was given no food or water. "That treatment is inhumane for everyone," said Rabbi Lerner.

When Judge Hogan delivered his ruling, his friends and supporters were appalled. "We were all shocked," said Rabbi Lerner. "Jonathan wasn't. He said, 'I knew from day one. No one will get me out. Only G-d will get me out.' He's teaching me about emunah," Rabbi Lerner said.

Pollard's inner circle found out about his mistreatment after the hearing. "They didn't want to public," Rabbi Lerner said. "Now that it's obvious the judge had his own agenda"

According to Rabbi Lerner, former Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini, a chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reviewed the material relevant to Pollard's case in July 1996 before he retired and recommended to President Clinton that Pollard be released. "There's nothing in it [the case]. He has served adequate time. I think he should be let go," DeConcini told Rabbi Lerner he had written to President Clinton.

"This is a case of pidyon shvuyim," said Rabbi Lerner. "This was paskened 10 years ago. There's a kol koreh signed by 40 rebbes. We have to keep being mispallel.

"In Eretz Yisrael, the grassroots have woken up. We need to pressure our Congressmen and Senators. We have to keep plugging. It must be on the agenda of every organization. We can't give up. A man is sitting in prison. None of us should be able to sleep at night."

(Reuters contributed to this story)

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