Justice for Jonathan Pollard – Prisoner of Zion

Today, November 21st 2014, Jonathan Pollard begins his thirtieth year in prison.

Jonathan Pollard

The day before yesterday, the US Department of Justice once again torpedoed his request for conditional release and made it clear they would continue to do so.

How can one explain the fact that although Pollard was NEVER convicted of treason, but merely of passing classified information to a friendly state, he received a life sentence, with a recommendation that he never be paroled – in contravention of the plea bargain without which it is by no means certain he would have been convicted?

How can one explain the fact that then incumbent Defense Secretary  Caspar Weinberger delivered a secret memorandum to the judge prior to sentencing – to which neither Pollard nor any of the lawyers who represented him then or later have ever been allowed access, apparently containing false charges which led to Pollard being sentenced as if he had been convicted of treason? In other words, Pollard was sentenced, not for the crime of which he was charged, but for other crimes, against which he had no opportunity to defend himself. If this is not denial of due process, I don’t know what is!

The excuse for the US administration’s opposition to any clemency for Pollard, who, today, will have been twenty nine years behind bars and who is suffering from severe health problems, is that his release would “constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law.”

Severity of the offense“???
Just to remind you, the information Pollard passed to Israel was not information concerning American troop movements or American spies, not information which endangered American lives, but information on  WMD capabilities of Israel’s Arab neighbours – information vital to Israel’s security, which the US was supposed to share with Israel under the terms of a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations, but which certain elements within the US security and political establishment deliberately withheld from Israel,  in order to weaken the Jewish State and make her more malleable and vulnerable to US pressure to make dangerous concessions to the Arabs. For this, he received a life sentence with a recommendation that he never be paroled, as if he had actually committed treason by passing classified information to an enemy country in time of war. In comparison, Russian spies who most definitely caused harm to the US, received far more lenient sentences.  Anna Chapman, was deported without serving any jail time at all. Moreover, the usual sentence for passing classified information to a friendly country – the crime of which Pollard was convicted – is between six to eight years in prison, with actual jail time prior to release averaging between two and four years.

Jonathan Pollard has already served twenty nine years of his sentence – far more than any other person convicted of passing classified information to a friendly country. In his secret memorandum (small parts of which have now been made public), Caspar Weinberger contended that Pollard’s actions had damaged US relations with “friendly Arab countries”.

It is hard to see how. The only possible damage of that sort could come from the revelation that the US had been spying on “friendly” countries and Israel would hardly be likely to reveal this as such a revelation would, of necessity, reveal to those “friendly (though not to Israel) countries” the extent of the intelligence Israel had on them.

 “ a lack of respect for the law.”
Whereas illegally spying on millions of one’s own citizens, as the US government has done, promotes respect for the law, I suppose!

It is hard to escape the suspicion that it is Israel, as much as Pollard, that the US is seeking to punish. Now, admittedly, for Israel to spy on a friendly nation such as the US is – well, not very nice.
No, seriously. It is not nice to spy on one’s friends. It’s even worse to use a friend’s own citizens for that purpose.

I am sure Chancellor Angela Merkel would agree with me.

But it goes beyond that. How can one explain the treatment of Pollard in prison? What reason could there possibly be for the refusal of the prison authorities to allow him compassionate leave to visit his 97-year-old, terminally ill father one last time? His request to do so was denied, without any explanation. Nor was this piece of spite enough for them. Pollard wasn’t even allowed to attend his father’s funeral – just as he had been denied permission to attend his mother’s funeral, when she passed away ten years earlier.

Could such systematic vindictiveness possibly be – because Jonathan Pollard is a Jew?

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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22 Responses to Justice for Jonathan Pollard – Prisoner of Zion

  1. Nomi Kessler says:

    “a friendly nation such as the US”
    I question the term “friendly nation”. With friends like that…..

  2. mysending says:

    Could it be for any other reason? Oh yes, that he gathered info for Israel? I think it’s called a double-whammy.

  3. David says:

    Caspar Weinberger was quite happy to sell Hawk and Tow missiles to Iran AFTER the Ayatollahs took over! He was subsequently indicted by a Grand Jury on two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors sought a fourth indictment, but it was thrown out because it was outside the five year statute of limitations. But before Weinberger could be tried on the original indictment, he was pardoned by George Bush (who was vice-president at the time when Casper Weinberger committed his crimes).

    So it would seem that Pollard was sentenced to life on the strength of a secret memorandum by a PERJURER!

  4. Bob Burka says:

    With respect to Jonathan Pollard, I would have to disagree, as an American and as a practicing lawyer. Something else was going on here when Pollard pled guilty, although I cannot tell you what it was. My guess is that they had him on a lot more than has publicly been disclosed – otherwise, no competent lawyer would have pled him and his then wife to the deal that they got.

    • Ellen May says:

      Conversely, one could claim that if they really had all that has been claimed on Pollard, no competent prosecutor would have made the deal they made.

    • There may have been “something else going on”, but – speaking as a prosecutor – to enter with a defendant into a plea bargain, whereby he is only charged with Crime X and then to violate that plea bargain, and enter an ex parte brief to the judge before sentencing, leading to the defendant being sentenced for Crime Y, amounts, in my humble opinion, not only to a denial of his right to due process but to misconduct on the part of the prosecution. It shrieks to high heaven that they never had any intention of honouring the plea bargain.
      Moreover, although it was hinted at the time (and, indeed, rather broadly so and even claimed out loud) that Pollard passed information to the Soviets also, it was later admitted that it was someone else responsible for that (I can’t remember his name at present, but I will check it out later).

      As for the competent lawyer – it has been claimed that his lawyer was NOT competent, otherwise he wouldn’t have failed to file a notice of appeal within the requisite ten days. Personally, (being of a highly suspicious nature), I am beginning to suspect that there was something beyond mere incompetence at play here.

      Finally – there is still no explanation and no excuse, for the vindictive way he has been treated while in prison – such as the denial of the right to spend a few last hours with his dying father (thus punishing the old man, also), or attending the funerals of his parents. It has, after all, been said, that criminals are sent to prison as punishment, not for (more) punishment.

  5. Kathryn says:

    Unfortunately in the USA they treat all prisoners much worse than most so called civilised countries.I have to agree that whatever he did his sentence is too long;I say that As I have not read up on his case.We get evil murderers doing 10 years or less.We believe we live in open tolerant societies but we are misled…. here it appears that child abuse by the top people has been going on for many years without police doing anything.I feel it’s wrong to keep people in prison for ever unless they are dangerous to others and untreatable.He is not a danger to others now as he was not personally violent.He has done enough time.

  6. David says:

    I am convinced that Pollard’s original lawyers conspired with the US government to stitch up Jonathan Pollard. The evidence speaks for himself.

    And successive Israeli governments have betrayed Pollard too.

  7. Bob Burka says:

    @Shimona from the Palace: “Is our disagreement on the question of what Pollard may or may not have done, or are we in disagreement about the obligation to honour a plea bargain?”

    As to the nature of our “disagreement,” I suspect that it is both, but certainly the second.
    Good luck in getting Americans interested, since that is the only way he will get released.

    • Seriously? You don’t agree that plea bargains should be honoured? Now you have surprised me.
      If the Prosecution fails to honour a plea bargain, after the defendant has already entered a guilty plea in accordance with the plea bargain, does that not seem rather deceitful of them? Moreover, if the Prosecution cannot be relied on to keep its word, other defendants will also be far less willing (if at all) to enter into plea bargains.

      • Bob Burka says:

        The plea bargain was kept. Whatever Pollard’s expectations, they were outside the four corners of the bargain.
        I do not know Israeli law, but there is a large body of law in this country about such agreements — Pollard apparently had expectations and hopes but not actionable, enforceable promises. And there is an equally large body of law about counselor incompetence.

      • Technically it was kept, but I do not believe that the Prosecution didn’t know that Weinberger was going to enter that secret memorandum to the judge making heaven knows what claims. Both Weinberger as Secretary of Defense and the Department of Justice, were organs of the State. That’s a like two hands of the same body.
        I don’t know the law in the US, of course. In Israel, a plea bargain is not binding on the Court, only on the Prosecution, but the Court has to give good reason (spell it out, in fact) for not accepting the plea bargain.
        I appeal to your sense of justice and fair play, Bob. Does it seem right that one side (the State) should be able to make all kinds of accusations against the other side (the defendant), and the defendant can’t defend himself, doesn’t even know what he has been accused of?

      • David says:

        Pollard was given ASSURANCES (not expectations) that the prosecuting authority (i.e. the United States) would not SEEK a sentence longer than ten years. Caspar Weinberger was part of the government. Pollard was sentenced on a basis of purported facts that were never put to him and to which he was given no opportunity to respond. Again, like Shimona, I do not know the US case law on this subject, but sentencing a person based on claims of purported fact that are not put to the defendant sounds like a breach of due process.

  8. Ian G says:

    It is clear that Jonathan Pollard has been denied justice and treated unfairly in prison. I have a link to the official website of the campaign on my own Blog.

    The above discussion centres on plea bargains. At a Brit, I find this practice abhorrent and sincerely hope that it will not become a regular part of our justice system. To me it looks like institutionalised corruption as it legitimises bribery and intimidation.

    The bribe is a shorter sentence and the promise of freedom. The intimidation is the threat to throw away the key. Confessions and other statements gained through this method should not be admitted into evidence. I think that plea-bargaining has corrupted the US legal system to the point where it will require a major over-haul to put it right.

    From what one reads and sees of the US system any foreigner to the US should tread extremely carefully if the have the misfortune to have any dealings with the US legal system.

    • Sometimes, one can fall foul of the US legal system without ever setting foot in the US or even breaking any law in one’s own country, like that young man I remember reading about, but whose name I can’t remember, whose extradition was sought by the US for something to do with computers but which isn’t a crime in the UK, where he lives and from where the alleged “crime” was committed.

  9. David says:

    A further observation here: no amount of law can prevent judges – at least the more senior of judges – from reaching the conclusions that they WISH to reach. Judges will decide what conclusions they want to reach first and then find ways to read the law accordingly. If it were otherwise, then SCOTUS decisions would be unanimous.

    At the level of the lower courts, I would suggest that selective interpretation applies not only to the law but also to the facts.

  10. Bob Burka says:

    I think that this discussion is going nowhere, given the plethora of law in the United States about plea bargains, incompetent counsel, and the inability of courts to sentence people for crimes for which they were not convicted. Pollard took his chances – why? You will have to ask him – but if he had incompetent counsel, my guess is that would have come out in a way that it has not. And do understand that I have seen a lot of situations in which the lawyer recommends that something not be done, client wants to do it anyway, and then client gets burned. I cannot tell you that that happened here, but it would not surprise me if it did.

    • aristosophos says:

      The fact that there is such a lack of transparency itself sows the seeds of suspicion.

      If Pollard had been told that the prosecution would seek 30 years and pled guilty one could reasonably speculate that the prosecution had a lot more on him. But they promised that they would seek 10. This is a matter of record.

      Then they asked for life. That too is a matter of record. If that was foreseeable then how could his counsel not have been deemed incompetant? Conversely, if was a breach of the agreement then how could Pollard’s appeals be rejected? Oh yes, they weren’t filed in time! But isn’t that incompetance by counsel?

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