Israel 'looking forward' to Jonathan Pollard's release, Netanyahu says

PM welcomes news of spy's parole; Pollard 'looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther,' say his lawyers

The Times Of Israel - July 29, 2015

Israel was "looking forward" to the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard after 30 years in prison in the US, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

"After decades of effort, Jonathan Pollard will finally be released. Throughout his time in prison, I consistently raised the issue of his release in my meetings and conversations with the leadership of successive US administrations," Netanyahu said in a statement. "We are looking forward to his release."

Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, will be released on parole on November 21, his lawyers said earlier Tuesday.

The decision caps a sensational case that has troubled relations between the United States and its closest Middle East ally since his arrest for passing secrets to the Jewish state in 1985. He pleaded guilty in 1987 to spying for Israel while he worked for US Navy intelligence. He was sentenced to life in prison, the only American ever to receive such a heavy sentence for passing classified information to a US ally.

"Thirty years of suffering will come to an end this November; not though kindness but through the law," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked wrote in Hebrew on her Facebook page.

"Not because of the devastating agreement between the United States and Iran but because of the law," she added, alluding to speculation that Pollard's release was intended as an olive branch to Israel, which was angered by the nuclear deal reached by the US and other world powers with Iran earlier this month.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also denied Pollard's release was linked in any way to the July 14 nuclear deal, which Israel vehemently opposed.

"No, no, no. Truthfully. I haven't even had a conversation with them," he told reporters.

Pollard's lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, also insisted: "The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East."

"The decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other US government agency," they said.

Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said the government had not opposed parole.

"The Department of Justice has always maintained that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed, which in this case is a 30-year sentence, as mandated by statute, ending November 21, 2015," he said.

Pollard's lawyers said they were notified by the Justice Department on July 1 that it would not seek denial of parole at his July 7 parole hearing at the federal prison in Buttner, North Carolina where he is held.

Netanyahu spoke Tuesday evening with Pollard's wife Esther, a Canadian who campaigned for his release.

According to Pollard's lawyers, he was "looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther."

"Mr. Pollard would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grassroots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials and saying prayers for his welfare. He is deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small," they said.

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