A former Pakistani ambassador to the United States recently cited Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence in defending the 33 years in prison given to a Pakistani doctor who helped the US track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
A Pakistani court convicted Dr. Shakil Afridi of conspiring against the state after he helped the CIA find bin Laden using DNA evidence.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other senior American officials have complained about the sentence but former Pakistani ambassador to the US Maleeha Lodhi called the complaints hypocritical.
“I think the country that put Jonathan Pollard away for spying for its close ally, Israel, should understand that other countries too punish those who spy for an erstwhile ally,” Lodhi, who is now a journalist and academic, told CBS News.
Officials involved in the effort to bring about Pollard’s release cited Lodhi’s comments and the Afridi controversy as another reason why US President Barack Obama should commute Pollard’s sentence to time served, ideally this week when Obama will present President Shimon Peres the presidential medal of freedom.
Before leaving Israel for the US to receive the medal, Peres told Army Radio he would discuss Pollard’s freedom with Obama.
“I will raise the issue in my private conversation with President Obama,” Peres promised. “The decision is not in my hands but I will do my best. We want the man to be free but publicity does not always help.”
Peres referred to a pressure campaign urging him to do everything possible to secure Pollard’s release in Washington. The number of people who signed a petition to that effect passed 70,000 at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Peres will formally be presented with the petition shortly before he meets with Obama in Washington, so he can show it to him.
Former captive Gilad Schalit, who is one of several well-known Israelis who signed the petition, expressed hope that “Peres will succeed in using all his might as president and a man to persuade Obama to free Pollard from his cell on a humanitarian basis.”