Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Jerusalem hotel where US Secretary of State John Kerry is staying to demand the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from American custody Thursday.
The demonstration, initiated by the Bar-Ilan University student association, took place in front of the David Citadel Hotel, where Kerry is staying during his latest visit to the region.
Holding signs and chanting, some 200 people called for Pollard’s release and expressed dismay over his continued imprisonment. He will be first eligible for parole next year.
Efforts to free Pollard, jailed since 1985 for spying on America for Israel, have ramped up over the past several weeks amid reports that the US may have offered him as a bargaining chip in peace talks with Palestinians.
Calls for his release also multiplied following revelations that the US spied on top Israeli officials.
On Wednesday, President Shimon Peres promised to pass along a petition, signed by 106 out of 120 Knesset members, calling for his release.
Channel 2 News reported Monday that Kerry had offered to check into the possibility of freeing Pollard in exchange for an Israeli commitment to release Israeli-Arab prisoners as part of inmate releases in the context of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Netanyahu had reportedly said he would not free Israeli citizens as part of the deal.
Last Friday, citing unnamed Israeli sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News had claimed that Kerry offered to arrange the release of Pollard if Israel frees Israeli Arab prisoners in the fourth and final phase of prisoner releases.
Pollard was convicted in 1987 on charges of passing classified information to Israel while he worked as an intelligence analyst for the US Navy. He was given a life sentence for the crime, sparking decades of activism for his release by Jewish groups, and, more recently, some high-profile US and Israeli officials.
Last week, The White House specifically stated that it had no intention of letting the convicted spy go free.