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US to Release Israeli Spy Pollard, His Lawyers Say


FILE - Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, North Carolina, May 15, 1998.

Lawyers for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard said Tuesday that U.S. officials have decided to free him in November after 30 years in federal prison.

A three-member panel of the Justice Department's Parole Commission granted Pollard his release after federal authorities raised no objections and said they do not believe he will commit more crimes.

Speaking through his attorneys from his North Carolina prison cell, Pollard said he is "looking forward to being reunited" with his wife, Esther.

He also thanked the "many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel and throughout the world who provided grassroots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for my welfare."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Pollard's upcoming release, saying he brought up the issue many times with U.S. leaders.

The Texas-born Pollard was a civilian analyst with the U.S. Navy.

Authorities arrested him in November, 1985 when he tried to seek refuge in the Israeli embassy in Washington.

He was sentenced to life in prison two years later, for turning over suitcases of military secrets to Israel, including details on U.S. intelligence, weapons and radar-jamming equipment in the Middle East.

His sentence, while called a life term, by law made parole mandatory after he served 30 years, unless the government showed he was likely to commit more crimes. His 30 years will be up in another four months. Under terms of his parole, Pollard must remain in the U.S. for five years, but his lawyers say they have asked President Barack Obama to release him early and allow him to emigrate to Israel.

Pollard's supporters say he was working for one of the United States' closest allies and that a life sentence for someone spying for a friendly country was excessive.

But U.S. military officials, including the late Caspar Weinberger - who was U.S. defense secretary when Pollard was arrested - argued that he is a traitor and did "irrevocable" damage to the country.

Some of the material Pollard stole wound up in the hands of the former Soviet Union.

Israel apologized to the U.S. in 1987 for its role in the Pollard case, but did not admit to paying him until 1998. Israel granted him citizenship in 1995.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denied Tuesday that Pollard's upcoming release was intended to placate Israel for the nuclear agreement with Iran - a deal Israel strongly opposes.