Knesset caucus vows to fight Pollard’s parole restrictions
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Knesset caucus vows to fight Pollard’s parole restrictions

MK Nahman Shai: Committee ‘won’t rest’ until ex-spy allowed to move to Israel, but Knesset speaker limitations may be lifted ‘if we don’t make waves’

Religious Jews in Israel, the most vocal and consistent backers of clemency for Pollard, at a protest on March 19, 2013 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Jews in Israel, the most vocal and consistent backers of clemency for Pollard, at a protest on March 19, 2013 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset caucus dedicated to Israeli-American spy Jonathan Pollard vowed on Friday that it would continue to work to ease Pollard’s parole restrictions which, among other things, prevent him from moving to Israel.

In a letter to Pollard, who was freed on Friday morning from a North Carolina federal prison after serving a 30-year jail sentence, caucus chairman MK Nahman Shai congratulated him on his release and pledged to combat any “violation” of his rights.

“Jonathan, the Caucus will not cease its activity until we remove the limitations imposed on you upon your release. We continue to demand the removal of any restriction on your freedom of movement, communication or other violation of your rights,” he wrote.

“We will not rest until you are free to depart the United States for any destination of your choosing, first and foremost — Israel.”

Jonathan Pollard is freed from prison after 30 years. November 20, 2015 (Courtesy/Justice for Jonathan Pollard)
Jonathan Pollard is freed from prison after 30 years. November 20, 2015 (Courtesy/Justice for Jonathan Pollard)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who has visited Pollard twice in prison, told Army Radio he hoped to see the released spy “whenever he chooses, whenever he is able to, here in the State of Israel.”

Edelstein said Friday was a “happy day filled with sadness,” adding that Pollard should have been freed long ago. “It’s too little, too late,” he said.

Jonathan Pollard, pictured December 17, 1997, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Ayala Bar)
Jonathan Pollard, pictured December 17, 1997, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Ayala Bar)

The Knesset speaker hailed the low-profile release and said that “if we don’t make waves” then “it’s possible that he will be able to fulfill his dream and come here, leaving behind all the suffering he endured.”

As part of the restrictions, Pollard cannot leave the US for five years. The American-Israeli spy is said to be willing to renounce his US citizenship in order to immigrate to Israel. While Pollard’s attorney had expressed hope that the president would use his executive powers to let his client leave the US, administration officials said last week that Obama would not intervene.

Both the Justice Department and Pollard’s lawyers have so far declined to discuss Pollard’s parole conditions, but one longtime supporter, Rabbi Pesach Lerner of New York, told a radio interviewer this month that Pollard would have to abide by a curfew and wear a GPS unit to track his movements.

He has also been ordered to stay off the Internet, Lerner said, which could complicate his ability to hold a job.

“We’re concerned that maybe they are trying to set him up so they can say he broke his parole and send him back,” Lerner told Nachum Segal, who hosts a program on Jewish affairs on WFMU in New Jersey. “They’re keeping the reins on him very tightly.”

Standard rules for federal parolees would also restrict Pollard’s travel within the US.

Pollard’s lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said in late July that they had secured employment and housing for him “in the New York area,” but they haven’t revealed any details.

Ahead of Pollard’s release, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred his ministers this week from publicly discussing the parole, government sources told Hebrew-language media on Wednesday. Sources close to Netanyahu said the prime minister considered the matter to be a “very sensitive issue,” and the directive was an effort to prevent a spat with Obama for not commuting Pollard’s life sentence.

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