JERUSALEM, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu appealed to U.S. President Barack Obama to grant
clemency to imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard in a letter he then
read publicly in Israel's parliament on Tuesday.
Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, has been
serving a life sentence in the United States since he was caught
spying for Israel in 1980s, triggering a scandal that rocked
"Mr. President, on behalf of the people of Israel, I am
writing to you to request clemency for Jonathan Pollard. At the
time of his arrest Jonathan was acting as an agent of the
Israeli government," Netanyahu said in Hebrew.
"Even though Israel was in no way directing its intelligence
efforts against the United States, its actions were wrong and
wholly unacceptable ... Israel will continue to abide by its
commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated."
Pollard's release has been raised on many occasions by
successive Israeli leaders with their U.S. counterparts in a
variety of diplomatic frameworks, but no president has agreed to
commute the sentence.
"Since Jonathan Pollard has now spent 25 years in prison, I
believe that a new request for clemency is highly appropriate,"
Netanyahu said that many past and present senior U.S.
officials knowledgeable of the affair, including many
congressmen, agreed with the clemency request.
"I know the United States is a nation based on fairness,
justice and mercy. For all these reasons, I respectfully ask
that you favourably consider this request for clemency," he
Pollard, who admitted spying for Israel, was arrested in
1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington and sentenced for
providing tens of thousands of pages of classified information
His supporters say it was information Israel should have
received from the United States and that his sentence was
disproportionate. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in
At the time, Israel presented the affair as an unauthorised
operation by a fringe intelligence agency. Israel later granted
Pollard citizenship in 1996 and acknowledged he was one of its
spies in 1998.
Israeli officials say the country has since avoided
operating in the United States.
(Writing by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Jon Boyle)
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