US & Canada

US set to free Israel spy Jonathan Pollard

Rally in Jerusalem for Jonathan Pollard (file photo) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jonathan Pollard was jailed for life for passing classified documents to Israel

Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, is set to be freed on parole from a US prison.

The former US Navy intelligence officer, now 61, was caught selling classified documents in 1985 and given a life sentence two years later.

Campaigners and successive Israeli governments have tried to secure Pollard's early release.

The case has been one of the most contentious issues between the two countries for the past 30 years.

Pollard has been serving his sentence at a prison in North Carolina. His parole terms bar him from leaving the US without permission for five years.

He has said he wants to move to Israel to be reunited with his second wife.

Last year it was reported that the US was considering freeing Pollard in exchange for concessions from Israel to the Palestinians amid faltering peace talks.

End of a saga - by Yolande Knell, BBC News, Jerusalem

In Israel, Jonathan Pollard has many supporters who will joyfully welcome his release. He's widely perceived as having been harshly punished for providing information critical to national security.

For years, a Free Pollard campaign has lobbied to try to secure the release of the former intelligence analyst. It has prepared piles of letters of encouragement from members of the public for him to read once he is out of jail.

The Pollard saga has been a long-time strain on relations with Israel's closest ally and there is relief that it is almost over. However the cabinet was instructed not to talk about the ex-spy too soon for fear of upsetting Washington. On Army Radio the Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett, simply referred to how Israelis "embrace him".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Pollard is set to be released from a prison in North Carolina

Pollard's lawyers said earlier this year that they had found employment and accommodation for their client in the New York area, but gave no further details.

At the time of his arrest, Pollard said he gave classified documents to Israel, a key US ally, because Washington was not passing on important information.

However, some intelligence officials have said that he also offered information to other countries.

Israel initially denied Pollard had spied for them. However, in 1996, Israel made Pollard a citizen and two years later officials admitted he was their agent.

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