18 ex-senators issue plea to Obama: Free Pollard

Letter to US president includes endorsements from senators who opposed his release in the past but now support an immediate commutation of his sentence.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
November 9, 2011 05:03
1 minute read.
Jonathan Pollard before he was arrested.

jonathan pollard_311 reuters. (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)

 
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In a display of bipartisanship, a group of 18 former United States senators recently wrote to President Barack Obama and urged him to commute Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence to the nearly 26 years he has already served.

The first letter ever on Pollard’s behalf from a group of senators, it includes endorsements from senators who opposed his release in the past but now support an immediate commutation of his sentence.

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The senators told Obama that commuting Pollard’s sentence would be “a wholly appropriate exercise of your power of clemency – as well as a matter of basic compassion and American justice.”

“We do not condone espionage, nor do we underestimate the gravity of Pollard’s crime,” the senators wrote.

“But it is patently clear that Mr. Pollard’s sentence is severely disproportionate and (as several federal judges have noted) a gross miscarriage of justice.”

The breadth of the signatories is significant because until recently, most of the pleas for clemency for Pollard, a former US Navy analyst sentenced to life in 1987 for spying for Israel, have come from Democrats.

A number of the signatories have served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, including Senators Dennis DeConcini (D-Arizona), Alan Simpson (RWyoming), Arlen Specter (RPennsylvania), Birch Bayh (DIndiana), Connie Mack (RFlorida) and David Durenberger (R-Minnesota). That position would have made them privy to information about Pollard’s crimes that has never been released.



The letter also cites Pollard’s ill health.

“After more than two decades in the harshest prison conditions, Mr. Pollard’s health is declining,” it said. “He has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions as has the State of Israel, and by all accounts has served as a model prisoner.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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