WASHINGTON (Nov. 9)
Hundreds of supporters of Jonathan Pollard descended on Washington this week to urge the Clinton administration to commute Pollard’s life sentence for spying for Israel.
In an event dubbed International Jonathan Pollard Lobby Day, about 500 Pollard supporters held meetings Tuesday with members of Congress and the Israeli ambassador, Itamar Rabinovich, in a high-profile effort to free the former civilian Navy intelligence analyst.
At an emotional news conference on Capitol Hill, organizers termed the event a success.
Speakers, including several members of Congress, encouraged Pollard’s supporters to keep pushing for his release.
“Continue to do what you’re doing,” Rep Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.) told the Pollard supporters.
Since Pollard’s 1986 conviction for espionage, the American Jewish community has been sharply split over his controversial case.
While some in the Jewish community have refrained from taking a position on the Pollard issue or have not supported him, increasing numbers of groups have been vocally backing him.
Pollard’s sister, Carol, said 220 Jewish groups supporting a commutation of his sentence.
His supporters charge that Pollard’s sentence is excessive, and have filed a petition asking the administration to review the case and grant Pollard clemency.
The Justice Department is expected to forward the petition to the White House within four to five weeks, sources said.
“I do believe that in the end, justice will be done,” Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Pollard’s supporters argue that spies for other countries more hostile to U.S. interests received lesser sentences than Pollard, who is now in the eighth year of a life sentence.
Pollard, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage, is currently in a medium-security prison in Buttner, N.C.
Pollard “was arrested as an American” but “sentenced as a Jew,” said Rabbi Avi Weiss at the news conference.
Also Tuesday, the American Zionist Movement ran a full-page ad in The New York Times urging clemency for Pollard.
The group’s president, Seymour Reich, said in an interview that he hoped Pollard’s sentence would be commuted “before the end of the year.”
Tuesday’s events were sponsored by the Vancouver, British Columbia, chapter of Citizens for Justice for Jonathan Pollard; and the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha, based in New York.