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US set to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard

The US views Pollard as a traitor, but in Israel, he is a hero [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2015

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Pollard will be released from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling US intelligence secrets to Israel.
The United States is reportedly set to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. The 61-year-old was given a life sentence in 1987 in a case that has complicated diplomacy between Israel and the United States.

He's expected to settle in the New York area while spending at least the next five years on parole. He will be barred him from travelling outside the country, including to Israel, without permission.

Many in Israel view him as a hero. His second wife lives there, and he has stated his desire to emigrate. It is thought he will receive substantial back-pay from the Israeli government after being granted citizenship while in jail.

Neither the Justice Department nor Pollard's lawyers have discussed his parole conditions, but one longtime supporter, Rabbi Pesach Lerner of New York, told a radio interviewer that Pollard would have to abide by a curfew and wear a GPS unit to track his movements.
     It is thought he will receive substantial back-pay from the Israeli government after being granted citizenship while in jail


He has also been ordered to stay off the internet, Lerner said, which could complicate his ability to hold a job.

"We're concerned that maybe they are trying to set him up so they can say he broke his parole and send him back," Lerner told Nachum Segal, who hosts a programme on Jewish affairs on WFMU in New Jersey. "They're keeping the reins on him very tightly."

Standard rules for federal parolees will also restrict Pollard's travel within the US.

Pollard's lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said in late July that they had secured employment and housing for him "in the New York area", but have not revealed any details.

On the down-low

Several of Pollard's longtime supporters declined to speak about their thoughts on his impending release or his plans for the future, saying they didn't want to say anything potentially provocative when he was so close to freedom.

"After all this time, we want him to get out without any difficulties of any comments in the press," said Kenneth Lasson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who supported Pollard's bid to have his sentence shortened.

Officials in Israel have also been instructed to keep celebrations low-key, concerned that too warm a reception might hurt efforts to persuade Washington to let him leave for Israel.

"We were asked [by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] not to speak expansively" on Pollard's release, said Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party, described Pollard as "an emissary of the State of Israel, for better or worse".

Despite his instructions to his cabinet ministers, Netanyahu declared on Friday that the people of Israel welcomed Pollard's release.
     Blessed is He who frees the imprisoned
- Reuvin Rivlin


"As someone who raised Jonathan's case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come," said Netanyahu.

"After three long and difficult decades, Jonathan has been reunited with his family. May this Sabbath bring him much joy and peace that will continue in the years and decades ahead."

Israel's president, Reuvlin Rivlin, appeared overjoyed.

"Blessed is He who frees the imprisoned," he said in a statement. "We all offer blessings at the release of Jonathan Pollard... We congratulate Jonathan and his family today on their reunification, and pray they will have many years of happiness, health and harmony."

Two New York congressmen, Reps Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, have written to US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch, saying that Pollard should be allowed to renounce his US citizenship and emigrate to Israel.

The details of when he will travel to New York, following his release from the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, or where he will be living and working, are still being kept private.

"I've been working with Mr. Pollard for 20 years, and even I don't know where he is going or what he will be doing," said Farley Weiss, the president of the National Council of Young Israel.

Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the navy, was arrested in 1985. He pleaded guilty a year later. Over the decades, the possibility of his early release had been dangled as a bargaining chip in the Middle East peace process.

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