(JTA) — Convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard was taken to a civilian hospital to undergo what was described in reports as "urgent" surgery.
Pollard was removed Tuesday from the federal prison in Butner, N.C., for the surgery, according to Israeli news sites. The prison would not confirm that Pollard had been taken to a hospital.
Pollard has been in poor health, including a deterioration of his kidney problems. His wife, Esther, had come from Israel to North Carolina to visit him before the surgery.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, visited Pollard in prison last week. Pollard called on Oren to seek his release from President Obama.
Pollard was not allowed to visit his father on his deathbed or to attend his father’s funeral earlier this summer, despite appeals from Israeli officials and supporters.
Pollard was a U.S. Navy civilian analyst when he was arrested in 1985 for spying for Israel. He is serving a life sentence.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) reiterated a call he led last year to show Pollard clemency in a short speech on Monday on the U.S. House of Representatives floor.
"I believe that in addition to the arguments based on the excessive length of the sentence, I think, the fact that Mr. Pollard has served for so long, clearly the deterrent effect is there, we are not asking that he be pardoned, we are not condoning his crime, we are saying that in addition to the personal argument, it would be a sign of U.S.- Israeli relations that I think would help strengthen the climate for peace," Frank said.
Frank initiated a letter to President Obama last October calling for Pollards release. It was signed by 37 Democrats in Congress