President Shimon Peres will hand US President Barack Obama a petition calling for the release of the Israeli-American spy Jonathan Pollard.
The petition, signed by more than 200,000 people, was given to Peres by Pollard’s wife Esther, Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky and activists in the Free Jonathan Pollard campaign, Maariv reported.
Around 800 people took part in a protest calling for Pollard’s release in front of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem Tuesday evening.
Last Friday, Esther Pollard issued a heartfelt plea to the American president, urging him ahead of his upcoming visit to Israel to free her husband.
But Obama said in a Channel 2 interview last week that he had no immediate plans to free Pollard.
“Mr. President, all Jonathan and I are asking for is your compassion, your compassion and your mercy. People in this world have all kinds of great dreams that they want to accomplish. The greatest dream that Jonathan and I have is that he will be home for Passover this year, to sit next to me at the Passover Seder, to drink his cup of wine, finally, after 28 years, as a free man,” Esther Pollard in an interview to Channel 2 News.
The 59-year-old Pollard started serving a life sentence for espionage in 1987.
Earlier this month, former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb joined a growing chorus of senior officials and former officials calling on Obama to pardon Pollard.
After nearly three decades in prison, Pollard no longer poses a threat to the US or its military secrets, Korb said following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Effie Lahav, a leading activist for Pollard’s release.
“The time has long since come for Jonathan to go free,” Netanyahu said at the meeting. “This issue will come up during President Obama’s visit. It has already been raised countless times by myself and others, and the time has come for him to go free.”
Esther said that if anybody can bring about the release of her husband it’s Peres. “I believe that because of President Peres’s ability to speak to humanitarian concerns and express the desire of the entire public — compassion from the American president — I believe he can succeed. All that is needed is the will and ability,” said Esther.
“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,” Peres said last month.
The Jewish Agency has also called for a presidential pardon for the convicted spy, as has former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who urged Obama to let Pollard “live the rest of his life with his wife, Esther, in Israel, which has granted him citizenship.”
Pollard also recently received the support of someone who knows all about being held prisoner, former kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit, who was freed from Hamas captivity a year and a half ago, wrote on his Facebook page that he signed the petition to free Pollard and urged others to do the same. “Freedom is a great gift. Thank you to all that acted on my behalf. Now please join the campaign to save Pollard,” he wrote.