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US denies preparing to release Israeli spy
July 26, 2015
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WASHINGTON: US officials on Friday denied a Wall Street Journal report that the Obama administration was considering early release for Jonathan Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel.

The Justice Department said Pollard must serve his full 30-year sentence.

It stressed that he has long been eligible for consideration for parole in November but insisted that the administration has no say in how that process unfolds.

One US official rejected the notion that Pollard’s release would have anything to do with trying to smooth tense relations with Israel over President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fiercely opposes.

The Wall Street Journal reported that some US officials are pushing for Pollard’s release in a matter of weeks, while others expect it could take months, possibly at his parole consideration date in November.

Successive Israeli governments have appealed for Pollard’s release, which would be hugely popular in Israel, but US presidents have always resisted.

Pollard, 60, was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel and sentenced to a life term.

The Justice Department said it “has always and continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed.”

“Mr Pollard’s status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

“There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.”

Pollard, 60, has battled health problems in recent years and is being held in a North Carolina prison. The federal Bureau of Prisons website lists his expected release date as Nov.21.

Pollard’s supporters say he is being punished too harshly since Israel is a US ally and much of the classified information he passed on caused no damage to the United States and was intelligence that Israel previously had access to.

His supporters also say he should be released because of his poor health, with his attorney saying he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

His attorney, Eliot Lauer, told reporters on Friday that he hoped his client would be released, but said he had received no commitment from the Obama administration.

Agencies
 

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