Peres awaiting reply on Pollard request

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli President Shimon Peres is awaiting a reply from the White House on his plea for clemency for Jonathan Pollard.

Peres’ letter, sent Monday, cited Pollard’s reportedly severe health situation in requesting that he be released from Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, where he is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

Peres has not received an official reply to his letter, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

An administration official said that as of Monday night, longstanding U.S. policy on Pollard had not changed.

"There is no change in our position," the official said. "I refer you to previous comments."

Pollard reportedly was rushed to a hospital outside of the prison on the eve of Passover suffering from an unspecified emergency condition. He has suffered from a variety of illnesses since being imprisoned in 1986.

Obama announced last month that he would award Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in June; a petition signed by more than 35,000 Israelis has called on Peres to link the awarding of the medal to clemency for Pollard. 

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit signed the petition last week. Peres on Monday also received a petition signed by 80 Israeli lawmakers calling on Obama to release Pollard, according to reports.

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