Pollard hospitalized after losing consciousness in jail

Israeli spy’s wife says she has yet to receive information on the condition of her husband, who has been ill in the past

Itamar Sharon is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Jonathan Pollard (screenshot: YouTube)
Jonathan Pollard (screenshot: YouTube)

Spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard was hospitalized Friday after losing consciousness in a US prison due to undisclosed causes, Israeli media reported.

According to an activist group involved in campaigning for Pollard’s release, the spy’s wife Esther was notified of the medical incident by American authorities. She was told that her husband was taken to a hospital outside the jail, but did not receive further information and Pollard’s condition was unclear.

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.

“We are fearful and praying, especially since there have already been cases in which he was hospitalized in a very perilous state,” said Efi Lahav, head of the Campaign for the Release of Jonathan Pollard group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Esther Pollard on Friday afternoon to express hope for his speedy recovery, and said that after 30 years in jail, it was past time that Pollard went free.

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)

In Israel, he remains a cause celebre, and there have been repeated efforts throughout the past twenty years to secure his release.

The American intelligence and defense community 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.

After a past hospitalization, the campaign group stated that “because of his long years of incarceration under harsh conditions (including seven years in solitary confinement), inadequate nutrition and inadequate medical care, Jonathan is suffering from numerous medical conditions…The compounded effect of these multiple medical issues is wreaking havoc on his overall health and threatening his ability to survive. His body is simply worn out.”

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 contributed to this report.

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