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Public Statements

Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Clemency for Johnathan Pollard

Congressmen Barney Frank, Bill Pascrell Jr., Anthony Weiner and Steven Rothman, along with representatives of major Jewish organizations, held a press conference today to call for President Barack Obama to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen and formal naval officer who has been incarcerated since 1985 for spying on behalf of Israel. Pollard is the only American who has received a life sentence for spying for an ally.

The Representatives were joined by Eric Fusfield of B'nai Brith International, Juliana Schnur of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Abba Cohen of Agudath Israel of America. David Nyer, a key grassroots organizer of the effort to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard, conveyed words of support from Rabbi Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Major Jewish Presidents and Rabbi Pesach Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel.

At the press conference, Frank, Pascrell, Weiner and Rothman released a letter to President Obama, signed by thirty-nine Members of Congress, asking him to take action on the Pollard issue. The letter is attached.

The Members do not dispute Mr. Pollard's guilt in this case, but they request that his sentence be reduced so it is comparable to sentences served by others convicted of spying for allies or non-adversarial nations.

"We are not questioning Mr. Pollard's guilt, but rather appealing for clemency based on the vast disparity between his sentence and his crime," said Congressman Pascrell, who visited Pollard in a federal prison in North Carolina in the late 1990s. "Israel is one of America's strongest allies, and I believe that 25 years behind bars is far too many for Mr. Pollard, especially considering the sentences to those convicted of similar crimes on behalf of countries who are not our friends."

"A decision by the President to grant clemency would not only be a humane act regarding Mr. Pollard, but I believe it would be taken as an affirmation of the strong commitment the U.S. has to Israel," said Congressman Frank. "This is especially important at a time when Israel, our democratic ally, is facing difficult decisions regarding its efforts to make peace with its neighbors."

"There is no doubt that Jonathan Pollard committed a very serious offense. But, the simple fact is that the punishment does not fit the crime," Rep. Weiner said. "Out of commonsense and compassion for someone who cooperated fully, at what point do you say "enough is enough'?"

"This cause is about one simple but crucial principle: Equal justice under the law," said Eric Fusfield, Director of Legislative Affairs of B'nai B'rith International. "Jonathan Pollard has already served 25 years of a life sentence for one count of passing classified information to an ally, a crime that, for other offenders, carries an average sentence of much less than 10 years; in fact, today the maximum sentence for this crime is 10 years. In Pollard's case, the sentence clearly is vastly disproportionate to the crime and should be commuted to time already served.

The text of the letter reads:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to urge you to use your constitutional power to extend clemency to Jonathan Pollard, thereby releasing him from prison after the time he has already served. Mr. Pollard committed serious crimes and he has expressed remorse. Such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about his guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted. Those who have such views are of course entitled to continue to have them, bu the clemency grant has nothing to do with that.

We believe that there has been a great disparity from the standpoint of justice between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served - or not served at all - by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations that, like Israel, are not adversarial to us. It is indisputable in our view that the nearly twenty-five years that Mr. Pollard has served stands as a sufficient time from the standpoint of either punishment or deterrence.

In summary, we see clemency for Mr. Pollard as an act of compassion justified by the way others have been treated by ur justice system. We urge you to use the clemency power in this case.

Sincerely,

Barney Frank
Member of Congress

Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress

Edolphus Towns
Member of Congress

Anthony Weiner
Member of Congress

Henry A. Waxman
Member of Congress

Gary L. Ackerman
Member of Congress

Gregory W. Meeks
Member of Congress

Maurice D. Hinchey
Member of Congress

Michael E. McMahon
Member of Congress

Janice D. Schakowsky
Member of Congress

John W. Olver
Member of Congress

Eliot L. Engel
Member of Congress

Theodore E. Deutch
Member of Congress

Robert A. Brady
Member of Congress

Donald M. Payne
Member of Congress

Shelley Berkley
Member of Congress

Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress

Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress

Steven R. Rothman
Member of Congress

Ron Klein
Member of Congress

Raul M. Grijalva
Member of Congress

Steve Kagen
Member of Congress

Carolyn McCarthy
Member of Congress

Chaka Fattah
Member of Congress

John Lewis
Member of Congress

Frank Pallone, Jr.
Member of Congress

Charles B. Rangel
Member of Congress

Robert C. "Bobby" Scott
Member of Congress

Laura Richardson
Member of Congress

James A. Himes
Member of Congress

Brad Sherman
Member of Congress

Patrick J. Kennedy
Member of Congress

Bennie G. Thompson
Member of Congress

John J. Hall
Member of Congress

Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress

Eleanor Holmes Norton
Member of Congress

Robert E. Andrews
Member of Congress

Danny K. Davis
Member of Congress

Niki Tsongas
Member of Congress


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