A parole board denied a request to free US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard today after American officials said releasing him after nearly 30 years in prison would send the wrong message, an activist group said.
Pollard, 60, has been in prison since 1985 for spying on the US for Israel, and was thought to be part of a possible three way deal between Washington, Yerushalayim and Ramallah to release Palestinian prisoners and extend peace talks earlier in the year.
A statement from the Campaign for the Release of Jonathan Pollard activist group said the Justice Department parole board rejected the request.
The Hebrew-language statement quoted American officials saying that releasing Pollard would “constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law.”
There were no other details, though the group said it would soon release information pointing to the White House’s attempts to prevent Pollard from going free.
Pollard, being held at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, turned to the parole board for a first time in April, but canceled his hearing at the last minute amid reports that his release could be secured as part of a political deal to salvage US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
A former US naval analyst, Pollard was found guilty of passing sensitive documents to Israel, and sentenced to a life sentence in prison for the offense. He remains a cause celebre in Israel, and there have been repeated efforts throughout the past twenty years to secure his release.
The American intelligence and defense community has for years dug in its heels over keeping Pollard imprisoned, even as call for his release have grown in worldwide Jewish communities and mainstream Israeli politics.