JERUSALEM (AP) — The former wife of Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, called Saturday on the Israeli government to pay for an attorney to facilitate his freedom amid international speculation he could be released soon.
Jonathan Pollard was arrested in 1985 as he tried unsuccessfully to gain asylum in Israel’s Washington embassy. Since then, the case has stoked passions and divided opinions in both countries.
Supporters argue that he was punished excessively given that he spied for a country that’s a U.S. ally and point to other cases where spies from less-friendly countries were treated more leniently.
Critics, including prosecutors and government officials, call him a traitor who they say damaged U.S. national security by disclosing a trove of sensitive documents.
He becomes eligible for parole in November, on the 30th anniversary of his arrest on charges of selling classified information to Israel.
This week, there was widespread media speculation that Pollard could be released sooner.
Anne Pollard told Israel’s Channel 2 TV Saturday night that “that there is no official word that Jonathan is being released on any date.”
She said that the Israeli government should fund a budget “so that Jonathan can hire a top, top-notch attorney” for his upcoming parole hearing.
Once he is released he will want to move to Israel “100 percent,” she said, “otherwise nothing would make sense to him.”
“I just want to see him out, I can’t bear it anymore, that he sat and lost all of his life in jail, it’s a crime, it’s such a crime,” she said.
Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, told The Associated Press on Friday that he hoped his client would be released, but said he had received no commitment from the Obama administration.
Pollard’s release now could be seen as a concession to Israel, which strongly opposed the just-concluded U.S. nuclear deal with Iran. The U.S. has previously dangled his release, including during Israel-Palestinian talks last year.
Pollard’s supporters maintain the information he relayed was material that the U.S. had traditionally shared with the Israelis as part of an intelligence agreement but was being held back.
Advocates throughout the years of his incarceration asserted that he had either been used as a scapegoat or was victim of anti-Semitism.
The affair damaged relations between Israel and the U.S and has been a lingering sore point between the two allies.
Pollard, 60, has battled health problems in recent years and is being held in a North Carolina prison. The Federal Bureau of Prisons website lists his expected release date as November 21.