"The U.S. Prison Service's opinion with respect to releasing a prisoner to attend an event is decisive, and American courts rarely intervene in it," says Prof. Kenneth Mann, Israel's former public defender and a renowned expert on U.S. law.
Mann said that U.S. federal law does allow the release of a prisoner for a predefined period, in order to visit a dying relative or attend a funeral. However, the prison service has ultimate authority in such a decision, and the courts intervene only in the most extraordinary cases, such as when there is a suspicion of outside interests at play.
As an example, Mann cited a verdict in 2010 of a U.S. federal court, which rejected an appeal by a prisoner who had been denied permission for a furlough in order to attend his son's funeral. The grounds were that foreign elements were involved in the decision, and the court reaffirmed that the prison service had the privilege of deciding on the matter. The court also rejected the prisoner's claims about infringement of rights and discrimination.
Mann said the situation is not at all the same in Israel, where lower level courts and the Supreme Court as well intervene regularly in prison service decisions.
Mann told Haaretz he believes the Americans would rather not let Jonathan Pollard take part in his father' funeral so as to avoid excessive media attention and prevent an opening for hope, expectations and demands from those campaigning for the spy's release. He added, however, that if these were indeed the motives of the U.S. authorities in considering the Pollard's attendance at the funeral, they were inappropriate.
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