Esther Pollard asks turkey-pardoning Obama to have mercy on her husband

Wife of Israeli spy denies reports her husband could soon be released, saying US government will fight parole request.

November 27, 2013 16:34
2 minute read.
Jonathan and Esther Pollard

Jonathan and Esther Pollard 370. (photo credit: Courtesy of Justice4JP)


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Esther Pollard, the wife of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, pleaded with US President Barack Obama to commute the life sentence of her husband the same day he “pardons” two turkeys, on Wednesday.

The president of the United States uses his presidential right to pardon turkeys every year in a White House ceremony ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. A formal request to commute Pollard’s sentence has been waiting for Obama’s signature since October 2010.

“As President Obama shows compassion and mercy to two lowly barnyard birds again this year, granting them a full pardon and sparing their lives, my hope and prayer is that he will find it in his heart to show compassion and mercy towards Jonathan as well on this very special day,” she said.

“Jonathan is not asking for a full pardon, only for commutation of his sentence to the 28 years he has already served. Presidential clemency is Jonathan’s last hope. Such an act of compassion towards Jonathan (who is so very ill) on Thanksgiving would be deeply meaningful to the American Jewish community, to Israel, and most of all, to Jonathan and me.”

Esther Pollard denied repeated false reports that her husband could soon be paroled in a letter she wrote to an influential Democratic figure on Wednesday.

“He has no chance of being released on parole,” she wrote. “His attorneys recently reviewed Jonathan’s parole file and all indications are that the government will fight parole vigorously, hiding behind a veil of secrecy to insist that Jonathan remain in prison for 45 years at least.”

While the current law enables prisoners with life sentences to get out of jail after 30 years, when Pollard was sentenced in 1987, the minimum service defined as life in prison was 45 years.

Therefore, Pollard is still subject to the old law. Also, with a life sentence, good behavior by a prisoner is not subject to a reward of early release.

Pollard’s attorneys continue to be denied access to his sentencing file, despite receiving more than top secret clearance from the government 13 years ago for the purpose of viewing the file. That enables government representatives to say anything they want at a parole hearing without fear of being challenged by the record.

The lawyers have even offered to review the documents in a sealed government vault, duly monitored, without pen or paper to take notes, but the government has still refused.

A classification order for secret files generally lasts for 25 years. When the 25 years of Pollard’s file ended in March 2012, the government refused to declassify them and continued to refuse requests for access to them from Pollard’s attorneys.

Even if the parole commission decided to go against the government and grant Pollard parole, he would still not be set completely free, because he would owe the 15-year balance of a 45 year sentence. He would be under restraint in the US for 15 years, under house arrest, or a similar arrangement.

“The president claims that he will see to it that Jonathan is given a ‘fair hearing,’” Esther Pollard wrote the Democratic figure. “I do not know whether to laugh or cry when I hear that. How can he have a fair hearing when his security-cleared attorneys are not even allowed to access their client’s own sentencing file?”

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