Senior American legal scholars have written a letter to US President Barack Obama, petitioning him to commute Jonathan Pollard's sentence and free him.
The letter, addressed last Friday, argues "such commutation is more than warranted if the ends of justice are to be served, the rule of law respected and simple humanity secured."
Those signing the letter calling for the release of Pollard, who is now in his 29th year in an American jail over charges of passing secrets to Israel, include six Harvard Law School professors, among them Alan Dershowitz, along with Canadian law professor emeritus and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Irwin Cotler.
In the letter, the legal experts note the usual sentence for Pollard's offence of "conveying classified information to a foreign government" is six to eight years, with the average actual jail time standing at a mere two to four years.
Pollard's life sentence is "excessive, grossly disproportionate, unfair and unjust," argues the letter.
Further it is noted that the life sentence is a breach of Pollard's plea bargain, in that the prosecution had agreed not to seek life imprisonment in return for Pollard's agreement to waive his right to trial by jury and cooperate with the authorities.
"Pollard has not only been excessively and disproportionately punished for the crime he did commit, but has been effectively punished for the crime he never committed – nor was ever charged or convicted of – namely, the crime of treason," argued the letter.
"Indeed, notwithstanding (then Secretary of Defense Caspar) Weinberger’s affidavit - which Pollard never saw nor was ever able to challenge - there was never anything in the Pollard indictment to suggest that he intended any harm to the US, or sought to benefit any country other than America’s ally Israel," added the legal experts.
The letter also addressed accusations over the years that Pollard had compromised intelligence "sources" in Eastern Europe, a charge which was not part of the indictment and which no evidence has ever been presented for. It added that senior CIA official Aldridge Ames, head of the Soviet/Eastern Europe Division, himself was behind the treason and spread the false allegations to frame Pollard.
A 1987 CIA damage assessment that was declassified in 2012 was referenced, showing that Pollard only provided intelligence "on the Soviet Union’s activities in the Middle East, the Arab States and Pakistan," despite false accusations of endangering the US.
"It is precisely for standing injustices like this – and where the justice system has failed – that the US Constitution has vested in the President the power of executive clemency. We urge you to exercise this power in the pursuit of justice, the rule of law and simple humanity," concludes the letter.