US spy to be released after 30 years

  • 18/11/2015
Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard (File)
Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard (File)

The United States turns the page on one of the most contentious chapters in its relations with ally Israel when it releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard on Friday (local time).

Pollard, now 61, an American born in Texas to a Jewish family, has languished for nearly 30 years in prison for passing US secrets to Israel – but more than that, his lengthy incarceration has hung over Israeli-US affairs for three decades.

A US court jailed Pollard, a Stanford University graduate and former US Navy intelligence analyst, for life in 1987 after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defence information to a foreign government.

Almost 30 years to the day of his arrest on November 21, 1985, Pollard will walk out of a prison in Butner, North Carolina, on parole.

He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.

Reviled by many Americans, he is a largely popular figure in Israel.

While behind bars, he became an icon of the Israeli right and many Israelis embraced his cause, while the Israeli government has long demanded his release.

Washington later accused Pollard of causing considerable harm to US interests during the Cold War, although the full scope of his take has never been publicly disclosed.

Under the terms of his parole, Pollard should remain on US soil for at least five years, unless President Barack Obama authorises him to leave the country.

His lawyers said in July that Pollard had given assurances that he had a job and a place to live in New York.

But according to his family, he wishes to settle in Israel with Esther Zeitz, a Canadian Jew involved in campaigning for his release and whom he married in prison.