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Jewish Group Urges Clinton to Release Jonathan Pollard

February 11, 1998
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Four weeks after promising to call on President Clinton to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has sent a letter to the White House urging “immediate” action.

Pollard is serving a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel.

The delayed letter from the Jewish community’s umbrella organization came after Pollard’s supporters lobbied the Conference of Presidents to follow through on its promise to seek his release.

“We believe that Mr. Pollard has paid his debt after more than 13 years of incarceration,” the Conference of Presidents wrote to Clinton, according to a copy of the letter that was read to JTA.

“We respectfully request you to consider this humanitarian plea to allow Mr. Pollard to start anew and rebuild his life.”

The letter is the latest effort by American Jews and Israelis to intensify the campaign for Pollard’s release.

The issue was not a top priority on the Jewish agenda for many years.

But recently, many Jewish organizations have advocated for the release of the former Navy intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty in 1986 to stealing secrets for Israel.

The undated letter, which has not been released, was signed by the organization’s chairman, Melvin Salberg, and executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, according to a source.

Hoenlein said the letter has not been made public because he thought the matter was better handled privately and because he was awaiting the president’s response.

The plea cited Pollard’s expressions of remorse and the “excessive” punishment compared to other convicted spies.

“As a matter of compassion and justice, we believe immediate action to be warranted,” the letter concludes.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also has taken up Pollard’s cause.

Netanyahu recently sent a letter of support to Pollard. In addition, two Israeli Cabinet ministers have visited him at his federal prison in Butner, N.C.

While the Israeli prime minister did not raise the issue in his most recent meetings with Clinton in Washington, Israeli officials said, he did raise it with other U.S. officials.

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