Obama mentor asks him to release Pollard

Charles Ogletree, who was Obama's professor and friend, says he hopes Obama grants "wishes of many who have supported" pardon for Pollard.

January 5, 2011 22:52
2 minute read.
Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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US President Barack Obama received yet another letter asking him to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard on Wednesday, but unlike other pleas for clemency, this one came from a man he knows and respects, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree.

Ogletree, who directs the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard, was a professor of both Obama and his wife Michelle, and the president still considers him his mentor and friend.

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Netanyahu sends Obama letter urging Pollard's release
Obama’s unique opportunity with Pollard

“I have written President Obama seeking a pardon for Jonathan Pollard,” Ogletree wrote. “I hope the president grants the wishes of many who have supported a pardon for Mr. Pollard.”

White House and State Department officials said Wednesday that they had received Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s letter requesting clemency for Pollard and were considering the matter.

“We have received the letter and will review it,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, declining to provide a time frame or any further details on the review process.

Similarly, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the State Department had received the letter but refrained from commenting further.

Netanyahu sent the letter Tuesday after pressure from members of the Knesset and advocates on behalf of Pollard called for a formal, public appeal for his release. The former US Navy analyst has served more than 25 years of a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally and is in ill health.

When Netanyahu first gave indications he would be making the request in December, Crowley was asked whether the US was considering releasing Pollard.

“This is an issue that Prime Minister Netanyahu has raised from time to time, both in his current incarnation and in his previous incarnation. All I can tell you is Jonathan Pollard remains in prison,” Crowley said at the time.

Crowley was then pressed on whether Obama would be willing to make this or any bold gesture to Netanyahu at the current time since the prime minister had not acceded to US demands that Israel extend a settlement freeze to keep the peace process going.

“In the context of advancing Middle East peace, if either the Palestinians or the Israelis want to raise with us issues of importance to them, we will consider all of this as we try to get them to an agreement,” Crowley responded.

He denied that there was a linkage between the Middle East peace process and Pollard’s release but said, “We understand this is a matter of importance to the Israeli government and to the Israeli people.”

Wednesday’s Yediot Aharonot appeared to take Crowley’s quotes from three weeks ago out of context, saying that he made them on Tuesday and suggesting that he linked between the Middle East peace process and Pollard’s release.

“We don’t rule out the possibility that this issue will be decided within a wider perspective, in the context of advancing peace in the Middle East,” he said according to the newspaper. “If the Palestinians or the Israelis want to raise an issue that is important to them, we will consider it when we try to reach a peace agreement.”

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