Ex-Rep. Lee Hamilton appeals to Obama for Pollard


(JTA) — Former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton appealed to President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, calling it "a matter of basic compassion and justice."

Hamilton, a Democrat who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Pollard was sentenced, has intervened in the case before, looking into inhumane treatment against Pollard when he first entered prison.

His letter is the latest in a surge of pleas to free Pollard, a U.S. Navy analyst who spied for Israel and who has been in prison since 1985.

"I join many other distinguished Americans to request that you exercise your power of clemency and commute Jonathan Pollard’s prison sentence to time served," Hamilton’s Feb. 25 letter to Obama reads.

"I do not underestimate the gravity of Mr. Pollard’s crime, but I do believe that he has served a disproportionately severe sentence and that he should be promptly released. He has already spent over 25 years in prison, several of which were spent in solitary confinement."

In recent weeks, letters on behalf of Pollard have been received at the White House from former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye, a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama. In addition, 39 House Democrats sent a letter to Obama seeking a pardon.

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a formal request for Pollard’s clemency to Obama. Also that month, more than 500 religious and community leaders asked Obama in a letter to commute Pollard’s sentence to time served. 

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