jonathan pollard_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
Former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, who Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard
credits with saving his life, on Tuesday rejoined the effort to persuade US
President Barack Obama to commute his life sentence.
sentencing in 1987, he was sent to a Springfield, Missouri, prison hospital for
the criminally insane. Pollard’s wife Esther said that at that facility he was
kept in what she described as “inhumane conditions,” isolated and naked, without
blankets, sheets, or his glasses in sub-zero temperatures for more than a
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“Periodically, a blanket would be thrown over him to cover his
nakedness and he would be led out to meet FBI interrogators who showed him lists
of prominent American Jews,” Esther Pollard said. “They told him that if he
wanted to get out of this place, he would have to finger names on the list as
his co-conspirators. Of course, Jonathan refused.”
She said Pollard’s
nightmare went on until his parents contacted Hamilton, who was their
congressman. Hamilton intervened and began asking very embarrassing questions
about why Pollard was being held in a prison hospital for the criminally insane.
The government readily admitted that he was not a patient and that he was not
there for treatment.
From the Springfield, Missouri hospital, Pollard was
sent to a facility in Marion, Illinois, where he was held in solitary
confinement three stories underground for six-and-a-half years.
International later succeeded in forcing the closure of the unit in the jail
where he was incarcerated, but Pollard has said the conditions there were far
better than at Springfield.
“It was because of Hamilton’s intervention
that Jonathan was transferred out of what he still refers to as a scene from
Dante’s Inferno,” Esther Pollard said. “Were it not for Lee Hamilton’s
principled intervention years ago to pull Jonathan out of a situation of
unwarranted severe affliction – cruel and inhumane punishment – it is not
certain that Jonathan would still be alive today. We will always be grateful to
Hamilton, who served in Congress for 34 years, currently serves as
an honorary co-chairman for the World Justice Project, which works to lead a
global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the rule of law.
also a member of Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council and his Foreign
Intelligence Advisory Board, which give him direct access to
Unlike many American and Israeli dignitaries who have written
Obama in recent months calling upon him to release Pollard solely on legal
grounds, Hamilton’s letter was personal. He pleaded with Obama to free
Pollard so that his elderly father, Morris, would still be alive to witness his
“I have been acquainted for many years with members of his
family, especially his parents, and I know how much pain and anguish they have
suffered because of their son’s incarceration,” he wrote. “The mother is now
deceased, but the father lives. He deserves to see their son
Hamilton wrote that commuting Pollard’s sentence was a matter of
basic compassion and justice after he served more than 25 years.
not underestimate the gravity of Mr. Pollard’s crime, but I do believe that he
has served a disproportionately severe sentence and that he should be promptly
released,” Hamilton wrote.