(JTA) — Jonathan Pollard, who has been imprisoned for 30 years for spying for Israel, has been granted parole following a unanimous vote by a federal parole panel.
The release date is scheduled for Nov. 21, Pollard’s pro bono attorneys announced in a news release Tuesday. Had he not been granted parole, he would have been required to serve an additional 15 years in prison, the release said.
According to Pollard’s attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, the parole commission’s decision was made “independently of any other U.S. government agency” and “is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East,” presumably a reference to the Iran nuclear deal.
The Notice of Action granting Pollard parole requires him to stay in the United States for five years, a requirement that Lauer and Semmelman are asking President Barack Obama to waive using his clemency power.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported Tuesday evening that Pollard will be released one day early, on Nov. 20, because the 21st is a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Pollard, who in 1987 was given a life sentence, has been serving his term in a federal prison in North Carolina.
The U.S. government does not oppose the release, Pollard’s attorneys said. His only application for parole, filed last year, failed.
Pollard was arrested in 1985 while working as a civilian U.S. Navy analyst.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., as he left a House of Representatives hearing on the Iran nuclear deal that the granting of parole is not related to the agreement.
Pollard issued a statement through his attorneys.
“I am looking forward to being reunited with my beloved wife Esther,” he said. “I would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grass roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for my welfare. I am deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small.”
Pollard singled out for special thanks the National Council of Young Israel and its leaders, as well as David Nyer, Kenneth Lasson, George Leighton, Larry Dub, Nitsana Dirshan-Leitner, Effi Lahav, Asher Mivtari and Adi Ginsburg.
“It’s a miracle,” Pollard’s former wife, Anne Pollard, told Channel 2 on Tuesday evening, shortly after news broke of his parole. “I just heard officially that this was true.”
She said she knew nothing about the terms of his release.