U.S. President Barack Obama was set to release Jonathan Pollard but his vice president thwarted the move, The New York Times has reported.
According to the report, Vice President Joe Biden met last week with 15 rabbis in Boca Raton, Florida, when he was asked by one of them why Pollard, who was convicted in 1986, was still in prison.
In response to the question Biden said, “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.’”
He added, “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”
Jonathan Pollard was found guilty of spying on the United States on behalf of Israel and sentenced to life in prison. Similar cases of spying for a friendly nation usually yield sentences of less than five years, but U.S. authorities have refused to release Pollard.
Many observers believe Pollard is being singled out for harsh and cruel treatment because he is a Jew who spied for Israel.
Pollard’s health has been declining and in August he had to be temporarily taken out of his North Carolina prison to undergo an urgent surgical procedure needed because of severe lung problems.
Some well-known individuals have publicly called for Pollard’s release such. These include former Vice President Dan Quayle, U.S. Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross, former CIA director James Woolsey, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and even Senator John McCain (who was once vehemently opposed to the idea).
In August, Democratic Representative Barney Frank made a rare speech from the floor of the Congress on behalf of clemency for Pollard.
Despite all these calls, the U.S. government has made no move to release Pollard. He was not even allowed to attend his father’s funeral in June.