Gilad Shalit has added his name to the growing list of protestors urging Israeli President Shimon Peres to secure freedom for an imprisoned Jewish spy.
Jonathan Pollard has sat in a US prison for 25 years. The Texas native worked with US Naval intelligence in the 80’s and was imprisoned for selling secrets to Israel. Now, Peres is being urged to use an upcoming award ceremony as leverage to release the prisoner from his lifetime sentence.
US President Barack Obama announced during last month’s AIPAC conference that he would bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Peres. Since then, more than 30,000 individuals have signed a petition asking the Israeli leader to refuse acceptance of the award unless Pollard is released. This week, freed Hamas captive Shalit added his name to the list calling for liberation of the convict, who was made an Israeli citizen in 1995.
The petition asks the Israeli president to use his “unprecedented diplomatic standing to make immediate efforts to free Jonathan prior to receiving the medal. Only thus will it be possible to prevent a situation in which the reception of the Medal of Freedom makes a mockery of Jonathan and our country.”
Jewish groups and leaders have long argued for Pollard’s freedom, claiming that his sentence was harsher than usual for comparable crimes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for Pollard’s release in 1998, prompting then-President Bill Clinton to announce publicly that the case would be reviewed. In 2011, Netanyahu requested that the White House commute Pollard’s sentence, though the appeal was never publicly addressed by Obama’s administration.