As Pollard’s release nears, supporters go to work

Jonathan Pollard has been in prison since 1985.
Jonathan Pollard
File photo

Days before convicted spy Jonathan Pollard’s release from a federal prison, two members of Congress are asking Attorney General Loretta Lynch to give Pollard’s request to join his family in Israel “the fair consideration it deserves.”

Pollard, 61, who served 30 years of a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel while a Navy analyst, is scheduled to be released Friday. He must remain in the United States for five years, supervised by federal authorities, as condition of release. His wife, Esther, lives in Israel. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Eliot Engel, both Democrats of New York, suggested last Friday that the Justice Department follow the example of René González, a member of the Cuban 5 spy ring, who was allowed to renounce his citizenship and live in Cuba.

“Similarly, Mr. Pollard asks that he be permitted to leave the United States and join his family in Israel,” Nadler and Engel, who are both Jewish, wrote. “Mr. Pollard understands that this would likely mean that he would never be able to return.”

President Barack Obama has declined to waive Pollard’s parole.

“President Obama has not intervened in the judicial process here in the United States, and that’s been his consistent approach,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, told reporters during a Nov. 9 briefing. “With respect to the case of Jonathan Pollard, he’s made clear that he wants there to be fair treatment under the law, as there should be with any individual. But he as president has not intervened in that process. He respects how important this issue is to many Israelis.”

Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, told the Times of Israel on Nov. 5 that supporters in New York have a home and a job waiting for Pollard.

“The Parole Commission spent a lot of time inquiring about the job we lined up for Pollard, and his housing,” Lauer told the online publication.

Lauer declined to comment more specifically about Pollard’s plans.

Neither did Rabbi Pesach Lerner, former head of National Council of Young Israel in New York, “who worked tirelessly for many years on Mr. Pollard’s behalf,” Pollard said in a statement through his lawyers in July.

“He’s looking for privacy,” Lerner told WJW. “Anyone who tells you he knows what’s happening doesn’t know. And those who know aren’t talking.”

Nadler and Engel’s letter continued, “We believe that America’s interests and the interests of justice would be served if DOJ were to grant Jonathan Pollard’s request to reunite with his wife and move to Israel upon his release. In its discussions of Mr. Pollard mandatory parole, DOJ has already acknowledged that there is no reasonable probability that he will commit any future crimes after his release. If DOJ allows him to leave the United States permanently, this would become a near-certainty.”

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