Supreme Court Rejects Pollard´s Plea to be Prisoner of Zion

Israel's High Court has rejected Jonathan Pollard's request to be a Prisoner of Zion - which would have led to an end to torturous prison conditions and to better chances for his release.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 9:52 AM

The Supreme Court rejected this morning Pollard's plea to have the State of Israel recognize him as a Prisoner of Zion. The Court accepted the State's position that Pollard did not meet the required criteria, such as teaching Hebrew or encouraging immigration to Israel.

A former Prisoner of Zion, Prof. Ezriel Kochubievski of Rehovot, ridiculed this approach. Prior to the Court hearing last September, he said,
"The government stipulates that Prisoners of Zion must have engaged in Zionism. When I was in the Soviet Union, I did not think of myself as engaging in Zionism; I just wanted to go to Israel. Pollard, however, was sent by Israel to carry out a specific mission. If that's not a Zionist activity that qualifies for Prisoner of Zion status, then I also do not qualify."

Pollard's wife Esther said sadly this morning that granting her husband Prisoner of Zion status would have had two concrete results:
"It would have stopped the torturous conditions that he has been undergoing for 20 years, and it would have led to much better chances for his release. The prison authorities in the U.S. would not dare to harass someone who has been recognized in this way by the Israeli government... It also would have helped smooth the way for diplomatic pressures in both Israel and the U.S., which would have helped secure his release."

Mrs. Pollard said, "The whole country knows that he has been suffering in prison for 20 years merely because is a Jew who wanted to help Jews. Today's Supreme Court decision is very sad for all of us."

"The government knows how to do all sorts of tricks to find ways to free terrorist murderers," Mrs. Pollard said, "yet for Jonathan Pollard it refuses even to make the simplest gestures."

In January 2005, Pollard's request to be recognized as an official Prisoner of Zion was turned down by the official Prisoners of Zion Authority. One of the stated reasons for the rejection astonished many of those following the Pollard case. "How can we know that he will want to live in Israel upon his release from prison?" the committee wrote. In his frequent letters and messages from prison, Pollard has often stated his deep desire to live in Israel.

In response to the rejection, the Knesset passed a resolution recognizing Pollard as a Prisoner of Zion, but this decision did not obligate the Government.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who represented Jonathan Pollard in his Supreme Court petition, told the Court that Pollard's life sentence -- for passing information to Israel, classified by the US as a friendly nation -- is unprecedented in U.S. legal history. Persons convicted of actions similar to this, or even more serious than it, generally serve only 4-7 years in prison, while Pollard is now in his 21st year of a life sentence.

Darshan-Leitner also listed many incidents of torture inflicted upon Pollard while he was in prison. He was put in solitary confinement and had his clothes and glasses taken away for long periods of time during the winter months. He was forced to sleep irregular hours on a concrete slab. In addition, he was chained to an iron chair while guards sprayed ice-water at him.

For an entire year, the petition stated, Pollard was forced to reside in a special prison ward reserved for the mentally ill, where he was subjected to electrocution.

Darshan-Leitner's office said at the time,
"The lawsuit also seeks a judicial review of the Israeli government's calculated mishandling of Pollard's case for the last two decades; and its consistent refusal to mount an effective campaign to secure his freedom, as it has done for agents captured in other countries, including Cyprus, Switzerland, Jordan, and New Zealand."