Jailed Spy Pollard on Track for November 21 Release – Unless Something Goes Wrong

Parole board set to vote on previously scheduled end of his prison term, but sources deny any link to Iran deal.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Jonathan Pollard.
Jonathan Pollard. Credit: AP
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Informed sources expressed optimism on Thursday that jailed Israeli spy could be released from prison on November 21 of this year after spending 30 years in jail.

The sources said “there are indications” that the U.S. Department of Justice will not object to the release, which needs to be confirmed by Pollard’s parole board. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice refused on Friday to comment on the reports.

The sources, also cited in part by the New York website Algemeiner on Friday, said that no connection should be made between Pollard’s potential release and administration efforts to mollify American Jewish public opinion following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal.

The capture and captivity of the Texas-born former Naval intelligence officer, who will be 61 next month, has been a bone of contention between Israel and the U.S. ever since his arrest on the doorsteps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. on November 21, 1985. He pleaded guilty to a charge of espionage and was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 1987. In 2005, Haaretz reported that Pollard’s release date had been set for November 2015. The current Inmate Locator of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons continues to list November 21, 2015 as Pollard’s release date, 30 years to the day since his release.

Contrary to previous years, in which Pollard’s release would have entailed an active shortening of his sentence, his release of November 21 is slated to go through - unless his parole board denies it. U.S. Federal law that was in force at the time of Pollard’s sentencing says that life sentences are due for release after 30 years, unless the parole commission determines a prisoner has significantly violated prison rules or concludes there's a "reasonable probability" that he will commit a crime upon his release.

According to informed sources, Pollard’s parole board held its final hearing last week and is slated to take a final vote on his release in the near future. He is currently being held at the Butner Medium Federal Corrections Facility in North Carolina.

Pollard supporters as well as Jewish organizations and the Israeli government have claimed throughout the years that his life sentence was unduly harsh and disproportionate to other apprehended spies. U.S. officials and intelligence sources on the other hand have insisted that Pollard caused immense damage to America’s national security and is liable to cause further harm upon his release.

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