JERUSALEM (JTA) — A 10-year maximum prison sentence set for an Iranian engineer accused of spying on the United States spurred a new call in Israel for the release of Jonathan Pollard.
Mozaffar Khazaee, 59, a dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, was arrested last week at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey for attempting to smuggle to Iran blueprints for the F-35 joint strike fighter, which will be the U.S. Defense Department’s most advanced fighter jet. He was planning to fly to Tehran through Germany.
A statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut said the maximum sentence for such a crime is imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Khazaee, who became a U.S. citizen in 1991, worked as an engineer at the Connecticut-based defense contractor Pratt & Whitney. He has visited Iran five times in the past seven years, according to reports.
He attempted to ship to Tehran boxes containing the blueprints and other material on the F-35. The boxes were opened and its contraband discovered in November by U.S. Customs officials.
On Tuesday, Nahman Shai of Israel’s Labor Party said the sentence for Khazaee raises the question of why Pollard was given a life sentence and still has not received clemency. Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy analyst when he was arrested for spying for Israel, has spent nearly three decades in prison.
“Pollard has served more than 28 years for spying for an ally. Spying for Iran is much worse,” said Shai, who heads the Knesset’s Pollard lobby, according to a Jerusalem Post report on Wednesday.
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times published Tuesday, M.E. Bowman, the liaison officer for the Department of Defense to the Department of Justice at the time of Pollard’s trial and sentencing, wrote that “there are no other Americans who have given over to an ally information of the quantity and quality that Mr. Pollard has.”
He added that Pollard pleaded guilty to a more serious offense under a different statue that deals with the disclosure of information that might result in the death of a U.S. agent or that “directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information.”
The F-35 is set to bolster the air fleets of the United States and Israel, as well as several other countries..