President Shimon Peres on Tuesday urged the US to free imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard, joining more than 65,000 Israelis who called for the issue to be addressed during US President Barack Obama’s trip to the region in late March.

“I intend to raise the subject of Pollard’s release during my official meeting with Obama, during his upcoming visit to Israel,” Peres said during a visit to the south, in response to a query from a high school student.

“I’ve raised [the issue] in previous meetings and I’ll do everything possible to convey an unequivocal message: Jonathan Pollard must be released from jail for humanitarian reasons,” he said. “As president, I pardon prisoners on a humanitarian basis. [Pollard has] been in prison long enough.”

Ahead of Obama’s trip to Israel, tens of thousands signed a petition calling on the American president to pardon and release the 59-year-old, who started serving out a life sentence for espionage in 1987.

Pollard “has now served 28 years of a life sentence in American prisons. A few short weeks from now, he will mark his 10,000th day in jail. Both he and Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse. We have learned our lesson and have been living with the painful consequences for nearly three decades,” the online petition stated.