2001-04-26 / Other News

Pols, Jewish Leaders Urge Bush To Free Israeli Spy

Pols, Jewish Leaders Urge Bush To Free Israeli Spy

New York City Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, U.S. Representative Anthony D. Weiner and several leaders of New York’s Jewish community last week urged President George W. Bush to free Jonathan Pollard from prison.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy officer, was sentenced in 1985 to life in prison for passing classified documents to Israel, an offense that usually carries a two to four year sentence. Pollard received the harsher sentence because the U.S. broke its plea agreement with him based upon secret evidence that remains concealed and unsubstantiated to this day. Hevesi and Weiner were joined by Seymour D. Reich, former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel.

The group released a letter to President Bush stating that "circumstances surrounding Mr. Pollard’s sentencing reveal that our government violated fundamental principles of fairness and due process," and "jailing someone on the basis of secret evidence is wrong and un-American."

"The United States government breached its core principles of due process in its case against Jonathan Pollard, and President Bush now has an opportunity to do justice by commuting Mr. Pollard’s sentence," said Hevesi. "What Pollard did was wrong, he admits that. But he has been punished too severely. He has paid his debt to society and should be freed immediately."

"Since my earliest days in the City Council," said Weiner, "I have fought for Jonathan Pollard’s release. As a member of Congress, I recently received a classified briefing on Pollard’s case and came away more convinced than ever that his sentence was too harsh and that he should be freed."

Pollard, a former American Naval intelligence analyst, was indicted in 1985 for providing Israel with classified information. Convinced that he would receive a typical sentence for his crime, Pollard entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. government. But the government violated that agreement and sentenced Pollard to life in prison.

The sentence was based largely on a classified memo submitted to the sentencing judge by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. The memo apparently alleged that Pollard committed treason and that the U.S. suffered irreparable harm as a result. But Pollard was never indicted for treason, which is spying for an enemy. Nor was he indicted for harming the United States. Pollard was indicted for only one charge of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States.

"It has been about 16 years since the secret memo was written and the United States has not provided evidence justifying Mr. Pollard’s sentence. Nor has it shown what ‘irreparable harm’ was caused the United States as a result of Mr. Pollard’s actions. Quite the reverse, it is now clear that there was no such harm," wrote the group. "Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States given a life sentence for spying for an ally. Agents who have spied on behalf on enemy nations have not received such a harsh sentence."

Pollard received the same sentence as the infamous traitor Aldrich Aimes, whose actions, unlike Pollard’s, caused the deaths of numerous American agents. Neither Pollard nor any of his attorney’s have ever been given access to the full secret memorandum to challenge the allegations in it.

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