Jonathan Pollard 311 (R).
(photo credit: Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard)
The fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard became an issue in Tuesday’s Republican primary in Florida on Sunday when on of the state’s top Catholic leader urged the candidates to push for his release.
Bishop Chuck Leigh of the Tampa-based Apostolic Catholic Church serves as president of the board of the Florida Council of Churches.
He is also on the governing board of the National Council of Churches in Christ.
Leigh expressed outrage at the life sentence Pollard received for spying for an ally, a crime whose median sentence is two to four years. Pollard has already been in prison for more than 26 years.
“The case of Jonathan Pollard is one of the saddest excesses of the modern American judicial system,” Leigh told The Jerusalem Post
“In a country that prides itself on fairness, surely the punishment should fit the crime. Mr. Pollard’s continued incarceration is cruel in the extreme. There can be no doubt that it is clearly immoral. Mr. Pollard has already served much more time than any reasonable court could demand.”
Leigh’s call on American politicians to take action for Pollard crossed party lines, appealing to the Republican candidates in the primary and to US President Barack Obama.
“In the name of mercy I call upon the Republican presidential hopefuls to endorse the release of Jonathan Pollard,” Leigh said. “In the name of the Lord I call upon President Obama to take leadership and grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard.”
Former house speaker Newt Gingrich became the first candidate in the presidential race to hint that he would free Pollard, telling CNN in a December interview: “I am prepared to say my bias is towards clemency, and I would like to review it. He’s been in a very long time. But we are pretty tough about people spying on the United States.”
Two weeks later, in a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said he was “open to examining” the Pollard issue.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has not made a public comment about Pollard. He was expected to do so at a scheduled appearance at the Boca Raton Synagogue, but he canceled that appearance and halted his campaigning in Florida when he checked his three-year-old daughter, Bella, in to a Philadelphia hospital Saturday night.
The rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, Efrem Goldberg, has been particularly vocal about the need to release Pollard.
He was among a group of Florida rabbis who raised Pollard’s fate with US Vice President Joseph Biden in September.