US Judge says Pollard's restrictive probation conditions must be further justified

As per the terms of his parole, Pollard has to check in regularly with a parole officer for a year and can be returned to prison for poor behavior.

Danielle Ziri - The Jerusalem Post - December 14, 2015

NEW YORK - Ruling on former Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard's appeal to the US District Court to ease the restrictive conditions of his parole from prison, Judge Katherine Forrest said that the parole commission had indeed provided insufficient factual basis for these conditions and asked that it produces the necessary evidence to justify them. "Until the commission weighs in, there is no way I will change the conditions, Judge Forrest made clear. She ordered the Parole Commission to in particular assess whether it believed that Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy convicted of passing classified information to Israel, still possessed confidential information.

"If there is secret information Jonathan Pollard could disclose, the restrictive conditions could be necessary," Forrest said. But if he does not, Forrest said, his conditions may need to be modified. Forrest called her decision to send Pollard's case back to the commission for further review "the first step, and I think this is the right step." Pollard's attorney in the courtroom Eliot Lauer stressed that no one had ever suggested any information his client had remained sensitive three decades later.

Lauer challenged three of the restrictive probation conditions imposed on Pollard after his release from the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina on November 20th: the monitoring of both his home and work computers; the monitoring of his whereabouts via an electronic GPS anklet; and his 7am to 7pm curfew.

The defense argued that the computer monitoring condition is "unreasonable and unlawful" and constitutes an obstacle to his professional life. According to his attorneys, it puts in limbo an job offer he received from a New York investment firm. Eliot Lauer also added that the matter is time sensitive and urged the Court to find a rapid solution, so that Pollard can begin to work. Judge Katherine Forrest seems to agree with this point and said that "The Court cannot think of any job one could do without using a computer or the Internet." She also pointed out that Pollard had never used the Internet since it did not exist at the time of his imprisonment.

For the GPS monitoring anklet, Lauer said it interferes with Pollard's religious observances as the devices battery life is not long-lasting enough to last 25 hours, which means Pollard would need to charge its battery during Shabbat. On this point, the representatives of the US attorney's office said they can offer alternative devices with a more efficient battery life in order to accommodate Pollard. On the last condition, the 7am to 7pm curfew, Pollard's lawyers also argued that it interferes with his religious practices as it prevents him from attending services at the synagogue. The GPS bracelet and the curfew, the defense says, are in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Judge Forrest said the Court will not second guess the reasons behind the three parole conditions until it reviews more arguments from the commission, but also urged the commission and the government to work with Pollard to find ways to make them more comfortable for him.

The Court also mentioned that if Pollard was to ever write a book on his story, the script would need to be reviewed by the Navy Intelligence agency to make sure none of the information is still classified. Before the hearing begun, Pollard, wearing a black suit, a blue tie and a knitted yarmulke on his head waited outside courtroom 15A of the US District Court on Pearl Street in Manhattan, his hands in his pockets. He was surrounded by Eliot Lauer and some family members including his wife, Esther Pollard, who made sure his blazer was in place before entering the room.

Inside, as Pollard and Lauer sat down in front of the judge, Esther Pollard, sitting in the back bench, took out a small prayer printed in Hebrew and recited it silently.

The Pollards are not alone in their fight, as some US lawmakers and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists expressed support for his appeal. In the courtroom on Monday, no mention of Pollard's desire to move to Israel was made. As per the terms of his parole, Pollard has to check in regularly with a parole officer for a year and can be returned to prison for poor behavior.

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