Freeing Pollard Would Be A Credit to President Bush

Marvin Greisman - The Jewish Press [NY] - January 9, 2004

Jacques Semmelman, the tireless attorney for Jonathan Pollard, made a personal plea to President George W. Bush to bring justice to the case of Pollard, who is currently serving his 19th year in prison for "conspiracy to deliver classified information to the State of Israel." [J4JP: the median sentence for the offense Jonathan committed is 2 to 4 years. Now in his 19th year of a grossly disproportionate life sentence he is, in effect, a political prisoner.]

Semmelman believes that President Bush can gain a political advantage by securing freedom for Pollard in the upcoming 2004 presidential elections. Semmelman offered that view in an interview with The Jewish Press at a "Solidarity Concert for Jonathan Pollard" at the Young Israel of the West Side in Manhattan.

Semmelman took strong issue with Lawrence J. Korb, the Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who told The Jewish Press that President Bush would not gain politically by freeing Pollard. Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, argued that, "Bush does not want to be seen as being soft on traitors or people like that. This is one of those things which will not yield any political benefit." [J4JP Note: Jonathan Pollard was never accused, indicted or convicted of treason. See the Facts Page.]

Semmelman strongly disagreed. In his view, "President Bush needs to be made to understand that the American Jewish community stands strongly behind Jonathan Pollard. Once the president understands that, he will recognize that granting clemency to Jonathan Pollard is not only in his best political interest, but will represent a tremendous act of justice."

Pollard's attorney added: "We believe that President Bush is a man who believes in justice, and that he will act accordingly."

Korb, on the other hand, maintains that even if Bush wanted to free Pollard, he would have to contend with the CIA. "No president is willing to take on the CIA over this issue," asserted Korb. "Clinton was going to free Pollard and then he backed off at the Wye negotiations with former Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu."

Semmelman countered Korb's view on the CIA issue. "I don't know what the CIA says or does. I'm not involved with the CIA. I'm only interested in the judicial system. That's where we are litigating this, and the CIA is not going to decide the issue. The Court of Appeals will decide the issue."

Relating to the ongoing fight in the courts to secure justice for Pollard, Semmelman stated, "We are going to be filing a motion on January 14th with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia District. [J4JP:The Jan 14th motion is not an appeal. It is a motion seeking the right to then file an appeal. See: Legal Doc: Motion for Certificate of Appealability - A Must Read!] It will be many months before that motion is decided. [J4JP: Even when the motion is finally decided, all that will be decided is whether or not permission is granted to move to the appeals stage of the process. That could take years.] All we are looking for is a fair review by the Court of Appeals. And we hope and expect we will get a fair review." [J4JP: Again, any such review could take years]

Semmelman, who took on the pro bono representation of Pollard in 2000 together with attorney Eliot Lauer of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt and Mosle LLP, predicted, "upon fair review, we are convinced that the Court of Appeals will conclude that we are entitled to go forward with our motion to vacate the sentence based on constitutional grounds. And the Court of Appeals will also allow us to see classified portions of Jonathan's sentencing docket."

The day after Labor Day, Pollard returned to the same Federal District courtroom in Washington where he was first sentenced to life in prison. Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, spoke to a large audience at recent solidarity concert for Jonathan in New York about the September 2nd court date. She spoke by a phone hook-up from Butner, where the prison is located. She stated that "Jonathan was severely mistreated during his recent incarceration in Washington prior to his September 2nd court hearing." It has been reported that as Pollard was awaiting the court hearing, he was treated inhumanely and was held incommunicado, cut off from his wife and friends who came to Washington for his court appearance. [For a full description of the harsh and inhumane treatment Jonathan experienced, see: A Portrait of American Justice - The Pollards Respond to Court's Decision]

Esther Pollard said that "Jonathan's plight will always be a test for the Jewish people, not a trial, not a punishment or an embarrassment, just a test, one that Israel and the Jewish leadership has failed over and over and over again in the last 19 years." She insisted that her brave husband, who continues to endure indifference by so many Israeli and American Jewish leaders, "is a symbol in which Israel and the American Jewish community are humiliated and punished."

Esther also noted that not very long ago, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, the U.S. official most responsible for Jonathan's life sentence, gave an interview where he stated that her husband's case was "made into something larger" than it really was. She said that Weinberger "was telling us there was a conspiracy that led to Jonathan's life imprisonment to serve some other purpose." [See: Caspar's Ghost - Weinberger Memorandum omits key involvement] Yet not one Israeli or Jewish leader questioned Weinbrger on that outrageous statement or asked him to clarify why he made such an admission n the first place. Instead of calling for an investigation of Weinberger's statement the American Jewish establishment and Israeli leadership "just walked away."

One proud Jewish couple, Wayne and Rebecca Chesner, who described themselves as "regular ordinary Yidden" hailing from Baltimore, did not walk away from Pollard's plight. They recently organized a beautiful and heartwarming "Solidarity Concert for Jonathan Pollard" that featured such musical groups as the Honorable Mentchen, the Nu Radicals (formerly Teva), Pey Dalid, and singers Shimon Kugel and Ira Heller.

Joining Chesner was Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Jonathan's devoted and caring rabbi and the National Executive Director of the National Council of Young Israel, and Shmuel Sackett, the International Director of Manhigut Yehudit and a leading member of Likud's Central Committee. Both Rabbi Lerner and Chesner vowed a stepped-up campaign to free Jonathan Pollard, pledging never to walk away from this critical issue facing the conscience of world Jewry.

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