Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison for spying against the United States on Israel’s behalf, was released on parole Friday, after 30 years in prison his wife Ester told supporters in Israel.
The assessment is that even after his release from the North Carolina prison, Pollard, 61, will still be subject to various restrictions.
These include bans on leaving the United States, giving interviews to the media or surfing the Internet.
Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a statement confirming his release, saying “The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard. As someone who has raised the issue for many years with American presidents, I have dreamt of this day. After three long and hard decades, Jonathan is finally reunited with his family.”
His first move will likely be to seek medical care, since he has serious health problems that have led his hospitalization in intensive care six times over the last few years, and his medical condition has recently worsened.
The Free Pollard campaign has decided not to hold any public rallies or other events to mark his release, and Pollard’s associates have asked Knesset members and other public figures in Israel not to fly to the United States to meet him when he is freed.
After years in which repeated Israeli efforts to free him have failed and various American promises on the issue have been broken, activists who worked for his release fear the U.S. authorities might seize on such actions as an excuse to worsen the terms of his parole.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Israeli officials to keep low-key about Friday’s release of Pollard, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said. Israeli officials are concerned that too warm a celebration over his release might hurt efforts to persuade the U.S. government to let him leave for Israel sooner, but officials in the U.S. said that there is no planned change in his parole conditions.
Currently, the ban on his leaving the United States is set to last five years. But that term could be changed at a review hearing to be held in another two years.
Despite their decision to avoid any public shows of support, Pollard activists do want to ensure that he gets a warm welcome. Therefore, they have invited the public to send statements of support by email and created a special address to receive these messages. They will then be printed out and given to Pollard after his release.
Lawrence Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense when Pollard was arrested, told Army Radio yesterday that letting Pollard finally move to Israel would be the right thing to do.
Pollard’s sentence should have been commuted long ago, in light of new information about the case, he argued, and former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush erred by not doing so.
Korb said that many people exaggerated the importance of the information Pollard gave Israel and the damage it caused to the United States. Clinton, he noted, actually did want to commute Pollard’s sentence, but senior intelligence officials feared this would send the wrong message and then-CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign, so Clinton ultimately backed down.
Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 after the conclusion of an investigation into suspicion he was spying for Israel while serving as a U.S. naval intelligence analyst. He was convicted in 1987 to a life sentence for one count of espionage.
Because his crime occurred prior to November 1, 1987, he is eligible for parole after 30 years in prison.
Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally and the only American citizen convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.