Netanyahu urges Kerry to release Pollard
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Netanyahu urges Kerry to release Pollard

Amid reports of deteriorating health, prime minister says it is time for convicted spy to be freed from prison

Israeli protesters call for the release of Jonathan Pollard during a protest in Jerusalem on January 2, 2014, outside the hotel where US Secretary of State John Kerry was staying during one of his visits to the region. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli protesters call for the release of Jonathan Pollard during a protest in Jerusalem on January 2, 2014, outside the hotel where US Secretary of State John Kerry was staying during one of his visits to the region. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday and requested that the US release spy-forIsrael Jonathan Pollard from prison.

Esther Pollard, the spy’s wife, was told Friday that her husband was taken to a hospital outside the jail, but did not receive further information. According to reports, Pollard lost consciousness, but the cause remained unclear.

“Pollard’s life is in danger,” Netanyahu told Israeli media. “After 30 years in prison, it’s time he should be released and live the rest of his life as a free man.”

Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, passed reams of classified material to Israel from the summer of 1984 until November 1985. He has been serving a life sentence in US federal prison since 1987 and will be eligible for parole in November 2015.

Esther Pollard (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Esther Pollard (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Netanyahu telephoned Esther Pollard on Friday afternoon to express hope for his speedy recovery.

On Saturday, an activist group involved in campaigning for Pollard’s release, said his condition had stabilized and that he would soon be transferred to the prison clinic for further supervision.

The 60-year-old convict, who has spent around half of his life in prison, has been hospitalized in the past due to various illnesses.

The American intelligence and defense establishment has for years dug in its heels over keeping Pollard imprisoned, even as calls for his release have grown in Jewish communities worldwide and mainstream Israeli politics.

In November, eight former high-level US officials penned a strongly worded letter to US President Barack Obama denouncing a decision to deny Pollard parole in August, and charging the administration with basing the rejection on a “patently false” claim.

The document slammed the “unjust denial” of the request, the first Pollard had made after nearly 30 years behind bars, and voiced its “strongest objections” to the “deeply flawed” legal decision.

The signatories — who include former CIA director James Woolsey, and Lawrence J. Korb, former assistant US secretary of defense — maintained they “are fully familiar with the Pollard file and with its classified contents.”

Other signatories included two former chairs of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a former US National Security Adviser, a former White House counsel and a homeland security adviser.

Marissa Newman, Itamar Sharon and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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