Activists were out in force Sunday to push Israel’s President Shimon Peres to advocate for commutation of the sentence of former agent Jonathan Pollard, who soon will have been held 10,000 days in prison. Demonstrators filled the streets around the president’s official residence, waving banners and placards protesting Pollard’s imprisonment, now going on 28 years.
Peres was meeting Sunday in Jerusalem with a U.S. delegation of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to discuss the issues surrounding the Iranian threat to Israel, the Middle East and the world.
Activists said they were hoping to convince the president to also take the opportunity to advocate for Pollard to be sent to Israel – and for the lawmakers to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to commute his sentence to time served.
The former agent was convicted on a single charge of passing classified information to a friendly nation – America’s ally, Israel – about a hostile Arab nation.
The crime normally carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison. But despite an arranged plea bargain agreement, at the last minute the judge was slipped a note and Pollard was instead sentenced to life in prison.
He has subsequently been repeatedly denied parole and spent a total of ten of his years in prison in solitary confinement, often in an unheated cell and sometimes without clothes, according to various reports. The ordeal has taken a serious toll on his health, which has deteriorated in recent months.
An Internet petition circulating through various lists and forums has gathered thousands of signatures – as have many before – advocating for his release.
Despite an official request by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Knesset during his last term in office, and the urging of numerous former officials and lawmakers that agree it is time to release the former agent, however, Obama has not yet commuted Pollard’s sentence or agreed to let him go.