US to release Israeli spy Pollard on parole

Officials deny move to free ex-navy intelligence officer aimed at easing tensions with Israel over Iran nuclear deal.

    US to release Israeli spy Pollard on parole
    Pollard was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel and sentenced to a life term [Reuters]

    A federal parole board has ruled that Jonathan Pollard, a former US navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, will be released in November after serving a 30-year prison sentence, according to his attorneys.

    Pollard, 60, who has remained jailed for decades despite efforts by successive Israeli governments to secure his early release, will be required to remain in the US for five years under the terms of his parole, the attorneys said in a statement.

    They said Pollard was "looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther".

    They said the decision by the US Parole Commission was unanimous and was "not connected to recent developments in the Middle East".

    US officials earlier had denied speculation that Pollard's release would be aimed at smoothing tense relations with Israel over President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, which Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, opposes.

    White House and other officials have adamantly denied that Pollard's planned release on November 21 is in any way tied to the Iran nuclear deal.

    Israeli position

    And Israeli officials have said while they would welcome Pollard's release, it would not ease their opposition to the Iran agreement.

    Nevertheless, freedom for Pollard will be welcomed with enthusiasm in Israel. Pollard, who was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel and sentenced to a life term, has long been eligible for parole.

    Had Pollard been denied parole, his lawyers said, he would have been required to serve an additional 15 years in prison.

    Pollard's attorneys say the US Parole Commission was unanimous and the decision was not connected to Middle East developments [Reuters]

    But the justice department earlier this month indicated that it would not oppose Pollard's parole bid.

    "We look forward to seeing our client on the outside in less than four months," lawyers Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman said in a joint statement.

    Even though Pollard will be barred from leaving the US for a five-year period, his lawyers said Obama could waive that parole requirement and allow him to go to Israel immediately after his release.

    Pollard's supporters had said he was being punished too harshly since Israel is a US ally and much of the classified information he passed on caused no damage to the US and was intelligence to which Israel previously had access.

    His supporters have also said he should be released because of his poor health, with his attorney saying he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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