Jonathan Pollard, long-imprisoned Jewish spy, to be released Nov. 20

Jonathan Pollard. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish spy who has been incarcerated for three decades over a conviction for giving Israel classified information on America, will be released on Nov. 20.

Pollard was formally eligible for parole on Nov. 21, but the U.S. Parole Commission granted his release a day earlier because the aforementioned date coincides with Shabbat, Israel's Channel 2 reported.

Pollard's attorneys said in a statement on Tuesday, "The decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other U.S. government agency. The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East. Had parole been denied, Mr. Pollard would have been required to serve an additional fifteen years in prison."

Given that Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence in prison for spying for an American ally, advocates for his release have long argued that he should be freed because his punishment has been disproportionately severe. Additionally, the 60-year-old Pollard’s failing health has been widely cited as an argument for his release on humanitarian grounds. While those two factors have traditionally been the basis of arguments for Pollard's release, including among many high-profile former U.S. intelligence and security officials familiar with his case, some recent rumors have centered on his impending freedom being connected to the Israeli government's anger over the U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran.

"We have long sought this decision and we believe this action is long overdue with Pollard serving a longer sentence than anyone charged with a comparable crime," said Stephen Greenberg, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group with 50 member organizations and five adjunct members. "In addition, we do not believe that there is any connection to the nuclear agreement with Iran. The parole date was set at the time of his sentencing and the current parole process proceeded the negotiations with Iran. These are separate and unrelated issues that should not be linked. We are grateful that he will soon have the opportunity to rebuild his life with his wife and address his medical concerns.”

The U.S. Parole Commission's decision follows a July 7 parole hearing for Pollard, according to his attorneys, who said he was denied parole at a previous hearing in July 2014. 

A Notice of Action granting Pollard's release requires that he remain in the U.S. for five years. Through his attorneys, Pollard expressed thanks to "the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grassroots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for his welfare."

More specifically, Pollard thanked "his longstanding pro bono lawyers Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, and their law firm Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, who stood by him for so many years, and whose perseverance, creativity, and forceful advocacy were instrumental in securing his release on parole;" "the National Council of Young Israel, especially Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who worked tirelessly for many years on Mr. Pollard’s behalf, as well as Farley Weiss, President of the National Council of Young Israel, for his ongoing dedication and support;" and "David Nyer, Kenneth Lasson, and George Leighton, for their work on his behalf in the United States; and Larry Dub, Nitsana Dirshan-Leitner, Effi Lahav, Asher Mivtari, and Adi Ginsburg for their work on his behalf in Israel."

Posted on July 28, 2015 .