WASHINGTON (JTA) – In the wake of news that Jonathan Pollard collapsed in prison and was taken to a hospital, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the United States to release the convicted spy for Israel.
Netanyahu called Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday night, a day after Pollard’s collapse.
“Pollard’s life is in danger,” Netanyahu said after the phone call. “After 30 years in prison, it’s time he should be released and live the rest of his life as a free man.”
Pollard reportedly will be returned to the infirmary of the federal prison in Butner, N.C., in the coming days and will require surgery soon, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing activists working on behalf of Pollard’s release.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also urged President Obama to release Pollard following news of his collapse.
“We urge President Obama, especially in this holiday season and given Mr. Pollard’s worsening health, to take steps immediately to expedite Mr. Pollard’s release and to commute his life sentence to the more than 29 years he has already served,” said the statement issued Friday by the Presidents Conference, the U.S. Jewish foreign policy umbrella.
Pollard has been jailed since his arrest in 1985 for spying for Israel. He had surgery in March and has been hospitalized several times in recent years, mostly for kidney and liver problems.
The former civilian U.S. Navy analyst was sentenced to life in prison in 1987. Many former U.S. officials involved in his identification and prosecution now advocate for his release.
The Presidents Conference in its statement also scored the U.S. Parole Commission for turning down Pollard’s first application for parole, earlier this year.
“It is regrettable and inexplicable that the Parole Board denied his application after serving 30 years, much of it in solitary confinement, far beyond anyone accused of a comparable crime,” the statement said.