Congress Urges Pollard Release
Middle East Newsline - June 14, 2012
WASHINGTON [MENL] -- Congress has been mobilized in Israel's campaign to free U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard.
Democrats and Republicans have been signing a letter to President Barack Obama for the commutation of Pollard's life sentence. In 1987, Pollard, whose plea bargain agreement was rejected by the presiding judge, was sentenced to life for relaying classified information to Israel, an offense for which Egyptian and Saudi convicts spent as little as two years in prison.
"Mr. Pollard has now served more than 25 years in prison, many of which in solitary confinement, for his actions," the letter said. "There is no doubt that he has paid a heavy price, and, from the standpoint of either punishment or deterrence, we believe he has been imprisoned long enough."
The letter was launched by Rep. Eliot Engel and Rep. Christopher Smith and came amid a campaign by Israel and American Jews to win Pollard's release. On June 13, Israeli President Shimon Peres presented Obama with a petition signed by 75,000 Israelis who called for Pollard to be freed.
"Our position has not changed and will not change today," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on June 13. "I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of very serious crimes."
This marked the second effort in Congress for Pollard. In 2010, Rep. Barney Frank circulated a letter that called for Pollard's freedom and garnered the signatures of 39 members of Congress, all Democrats.
"Mr. Pollard has expressed remorse for his illegal actions, and we believe the time has come for the president to grant him clemency," the latest congressional letter said.
Obama has refused to respond to the Pollard campaign except for telling a Democratic Party contributor in 2011 that he was "being bugged" by clemency supporters. Over the last two years, a range of former Cabinet secretaries, senior officials and chairmen in Congress have called for Pollard's release.
"A number of people convicted of spying for other countries, ranging from the former Soviet Union to South Korea, have been given lighter sentences than Mr. Pollard," the congressional letter said.