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Orthodox, Reform groups back Pollard clemency

(JTA) — Orthodox and Reform Jewish groups are backing a letter circulating in the House of Representatives asking President Obama to extend clemency to Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, has been serving a life sentence since 1985 for passing classified information to Israel.

U.S. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Bill Pascrell (D- N.J.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Anthony Weiner (D- N.Y.) are circulating the letter among their colleagues and plan to submit it to Obama in the coming days.

The effort is backed by a number of Orthodox groups, including the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel, as well as by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The letter does not question Pollard’s guilt or sentencing, but says that "There has been a great disparity from the standpoint of justice between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served — or not served at all — by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations adversarial to us, unlike Israel."

The letter also notes that the act of granting Pollard clemency could help in the current standoff over Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"We further believe that at a time when Israel, our democratic ally, is being faced with difficult decisions, a decision by you to grant clemency would not only be a humane act regarding Mr. Pollard, but it would also be taken in Israel as a further affirmation of the strong commitment the U.S. has to the ties between us, and we believe that such an affirmation could be especially useful at a time when those decisions are being made," it said.

Reports last month, citing unnamed sources, suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might offer to extend the West Bank construction freeze in exchange for Pollard’s release.

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