Newt Gingrich: U.S. should consider clemency for Jonathan Pollard

Leading Republican White House hopeful says he has a study under way comparing Pollard's sentence with comparable people sentenced for comparable deeds.

Natasha Mozgovaya - Ha'aertz - December 8, 2011

Leading Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich discusses Jonathan Pollard in an Interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN Wednesday. Gingrich says he is leaning towards clemency in the case of Jonathan Pollard, but hasn't all the information needed to make up his mind.

"There are secrecy things involved here that I frankly don't - and I want to have access to as a candidate, and I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to have access to it," he said. "But I am very cautious about what position I would take on that."

"I am prepared to say my bias is towards clemency, and I would like to review it. He's been in a very long time. But we are pretty tough about people spying on the United States."

Gingrich says he has a study under way "to compare his sentence with comparable people who have been sentenced for very long sentences for comparable deeds.?"

The former Speaker of the House is a declared supporter of Israel, opposed to the Palestinian Authority's bid for unilateral recognition of statehood, and has vowed to be aggressive in his approach to Iran's nuclear program.

Pollard, who was convicted of espionage for Israel and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1986, has been suffering from many medical complications in his gallbladder and kidneys, undergoing an emergency operation in August of this year.

In a statement released by the campaign for Pollard's release last month, Esther Pollard expressed fears that her husband could die as a result of his medical complications, saying: "I'm afraid he won't be able to survive another year of this."

"In the last few months it has happened often that he could not garner enough strength to get to the phone and use the few minutes he has to contact the outside world. He has terrible kidney complications that are causing him excruciating pain," Pollard said, adding after "26 years all his systems are feeble and we both know that the next emergency hospitalization or operation are just a matter a time, and that no one is promising us he'll make it through."

Pollard's lengthy prison sentence made headlines in October, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden denied he said Pollard would be released "over his dead body," telling U.S. Jewish leaders, however, that the sentiment expressed in his rejection was his own.

Referring to the convicted Israeli spy, Biden was quoted by the New York Times as telling Florida rabbis that U.S. President Barak Obama "was considering clemency, but I told him, 'Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.''"

However, U.S. Jewish leaders speaking with Haaretz said the U.S. vice president claimed that while the general thrust of the statement was correct, his exact phrasing was taken out of context.

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