Pollard Lawyers Ask Obama for His Immediate Release

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu - Israel National News - October 17, 2010

The recent groundswell of Congressional support on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, coupled with new claims of an unfair trial and broken agreements, have prompted his lawyers to ask U.S. President Barack Obama for immediate clemency for their client.

Pollard was sentenced to

life in prison

25 years ago for passing classified documents on to Israel when he worked for US Naval Intelligence as a civilian analyst. The offense generally carries a punishment of 2-4 years. Years of attempts by Pollard's wife and friends to win his release by presidential pardon or otherwise have fallen on deaf ears.

However, a recent coincidence of events have encouraged them, and his two American lawyers - Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman - filed a request to President Obama on Friday for clemency. "Jonathan is not asking for his offense to be erased" in the form of a pardon, his wife Esther explained. "All he is asking is for President Obama to commute his life sentence to time served."

Last week, an unusual coalition of Orthodox and Reform Jewish leaders in the United States backed a letter initiated by several Congressmen for clemency for Pollard. Leading Congressman Anthony Weiner, along with Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Edolphus Towns of New York - all of them Democrats - did not argue whether Pollard is guilty or not.

The letter stated, "There has been a great disparity from the standpoint of justice between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served - or not served at all - by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations adversarial to us, unlike Israel."

The National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism backed the letter.

The Congressmen also linked clemency with President Obama's dilemma in his Middle East diplomatic effort, which has ground to a halt. They said granting clemency would improve ties with Israel and would be "useful at a time when those decisions are being made," meaning the impasse between the Palestinian Authority and Israel over the resumption of direct talks for recognizing the PA as a country within Israel's borders.

The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reported that the Obama administration is ignoring pleas to release Pollard in exchange for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's renewal of the expired 10-month freeze on building new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria. "It's not a new development," a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Stein. "They deploy [it] all the time."

Nationalist groups have strongly objected to the idea, and Pollard himself previously has said that he is unequivocally opposed to being released as part of a deal that would jeopardize Israeli lives via the release of Palestinian murderers or would uproot Jews from their land.

Stein also wrote that "incremental progress on the settlements is not worth agitating CIA officials, who are still seething over the Justice Department's investigation into whether its interrogations of suspected terrorists were illegal."

The letter from the Congressmen is only one link in a chain of events that has recently unfolded on Pollard's behalf.

Lawrence J. Korb, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, recently wrote to President Obama that Pollard's punishment was too harsh. "Despite Pollard's admission of guilt, cooperation with authorities, [and the fact that he] asked for a plea bargain, he received a disproportional punishment," he wrote. Korb also charged that one reason for the severity of the sentence was his boss, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, who has since died.

Korb wrote, "Based on the knowledge that I have firsthand, I can confidently say that the punishment was so severe because of lack of sympathy for Israel by Weinberger."

Weinberger once called Pollard one of the most dangerous American spies, although he was convicted for passing on classified information and not for "spying." In his autobiography, Weinberger did not mention the Pollard case, and later said that the case was a "minor matter... made much more important than it was."

Another recent development was a statement from Rafi Eitan, who was Pollard's handler at the time of his arrest, that an oral agreement between Israel and the United States called for Pollard to be sentence to no more than 10 years in jail.

The original article can be read here.