WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Republican and a Democrat in the US House of Representatives are circulating a letter among their colleagues urging President Obama to commute Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence to time served.
“Mr. Pollard has now served 25 years in prison, many of which in solitary confinement, for his actions,” says the letter circulated by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Eliot Engel (D-NY). “There is no doubt that he paid a heavy price and, from the standpoint of either punishment or deterrence, we believe he has been imprisoned long enough.”
The letter has so far garnered 40 signatories, mostly from Democrats, but with an increasing number of Republicans.
A similar bid in 2010 drew only Democrats. But the latest letter, and Smith’s leadership role in circulating it, are signs that Pollard’s advocates have made inroads among Republicans, who have tended to sympathize with arguments in the national security community that Pollard’s crimes were so grave he should never be released.
The Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations on Monday praised the latest initiative, although the letter is still circulating and has yet to be sent.
“As we are in the holiday season it would be a particularly appropriate time to heed the appeal of the many leaders from a wide variety of spheres of American life, in addition to the many members of Congress who have appealed for his release,” said the Presidents’ Conference in a statement. “This includes people who were involved in the case or others who were initially opposed to any act of clemency.”
Pollard, a former US Navy analyst arrested in 1986, was sentenced to life in 1987 for spying for Israel. In recent years, Pollard, 58, has suffered illnesses and has occasionally been hospitalized.