After 30 years in prison, convicted spy Jonathan Pollard is set to be paroled on Nov. 20, 2015. The former US naval intelligence analyst was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to handing thousands of classified documents to Israel. In particular, Pollard handed over information about Soviet arms shipments to Arab countries and details of Iraqi and Syrian chemical weapons programs. He was arrested by FBI agents in Washington in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli embassy in Washington. He pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents to Israel and received a life sentence. Barack Obama and his predecessors have been unable to release Pollard despite pleas from Israeli leaders and Pollard’s supporters. Had he not been paroled he could have served another 15 years in prison before being released.
Through his lawyers, Mr. Pollard thanked those who lobbied on his behalf, as well as “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 his welfare.”‘
The timing of the announcement led some to ask if Pollard’s planned release was related to the White House’s attempt to ease tensions with Israel after the signing of the Iran Nuclear deal. White House and other officials have insistently denied that this is the case. Israeli officials have also said that while they welcome Pollard’s release, it would not ease their opposition to the Iran agreement. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, who testified before Congress on the deal on Tuesday, told reporters Pollard’s parole was “not at all” related to the nuclear deal.
Pollard’s lawyers are planning on asking for clemency in order to allow Pollard to leave the United States in order to join his wife who lives in Israel.