NEW YORK » Former spy Jonathan Pollard is set to be released from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel. But he’ll be on a short leash as he rebuilds his life as a free man.
Pollard, 61, was given a life sentence in 1987 in a case that has complicated diplomacy between the two countries.
He’s expected to settle in the New York area while he spends at least the next five years on parole. He will be barred him from traveling outside the country, including to Israel, without permission. Many in Israel view him as a hero.
Both the Justice Department and Pollard’s lawyers have so far declined to discuss his parole conditions, but one longtime supporter, Rabbi Pesach Lerner of New York, told a radio interviewer this month that Pollard would have to abide by a curfew and wear a GPS unit to track his movements.
He has also been ordered to stay off the Internet, Lerner said, which could complicate his ability to hold a job.
“We’re concerned that maybe they are trying to set him up so they can say he broke his parole and send him back,” Lerner told Nachum Segal, who hosts a program on Jewish affairs on WFMU in New Jersey. “They’re keeping the reins on him very tightly.”
Standard rules for federal parolees would also restrict Pollard’s travel within the U.S.
Pollard’s lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said in late July that they had secured employment and housing for him “in the New York area,” but they haven’t revealed any details.
Several of Pollard’s longtime supporters declined to talk about their thoughts on his impending release or his plans for the future this week, saying they didn’t want to say anything potentially provocative when he was so close to freedom.
“After all this time, we want him to get out without any difficulties of any comments in the press,” said Kenneth Lasson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who supported Pollard’s bid to have his sentence shortened.
The details of when he will travel to New York, following his release from the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, or where he will be living and working, are still being kept private.
“I’ve been working with Mr. Pollard for 20 years, and even I don’t know where he is going or what he will be doing,” said Farley Weiss, the president of the National Council of Young Israel.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has asked the U.S. to allow Pollard to move immediately to Israel, the pro-government Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported Thursday.
Two New York congressmen, Reps. Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, have also written U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, saying that Pollard should be allowed to renounce his American citizenship and emigrate to Israel.
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy, was arrested in 1985. He pleaded guilty a year later. Over the decades, the possibility of his early release had been dangled as a bargaining chip in the Middle East peace process.