President Shimon Peres sent an urgent personal request to US President Barack Obama on Monday asking him to consider commuting the life sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard on humanitarian grounds.

In his missive to Obama, Peres thanked him for the great friendship that his government has shown to the State of Israel and emphasized the concern felt in Israel in general and by members of Pollard’s family in particular about the imprisoned agent’s deteriorating health.

Peres noted that in view of Pollard’s poor health coupled with the 26.5 years that he has already served in prison, it would be viewed as a supreme humanitarian gesture if Obama would commute his sentence.

The president kept his promise to Pollard’s wife, Esther, to use all his influence as quickly as possible to ensure that her husband is not returned to prison when he leaves a nearby hospital where he is being treated for multiple ailments.

“To return him to prison would be a death sentence,” she said.

The head of the Knesset’s Pollard caucus, MK Uri Ariel (National Union), praised Peres for sending the letter and expressed hope that Obama would accept Peres’s request “before it is too late.”

The White House said Monday that its stance on Pollard has not changed and that Obama does not intend to release him.

Sources close to Pollard said the White House released its statement before Obama had received the letter and they were still hopeful the US president would have a change of heart due to Peres’s letter.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center also urged the president to release Pollard from federal prison.

“In wake of Jonathan Pollard’s hospitalization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urges President Obama to immediately release Pollard on humanitarian grounds,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the major Jewish human rights NGO. “Whatever his crimes were, 26 years is enough. We hope and pray that President Obama will act swiftly and compassionately and release Mr. Pollard promptly.”

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