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Spy for Israel freed after 30 years in US prison

Spencer Platt, AFP | Jonathan Pollard, a spy for Israel, leaves a New York courthouse after his release from prison on Friday on November 20, 2015

Jonathan Pollard, who spied on the United States for Israel, was released on Friday after 30 years in a US prison, receiving a muted response from Israel’s prime minister in a case that has strained relations between the two allies.

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Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in 1987 of passing classified information to Israel.

He was released early Friday from a federal prison in North Carolina and quickly headed to New York, where he was set up for electronic monitoring as required under his parole, according to spokesmen for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and US Marshals Service.

“I’m sorry, I can’t comment on anything today,” the 61-year-old Pollard told a swarm of reporters as he exited the courthouse in Manhattan after being fitted for the monitoring.

His lawyers also declined comment.

Pollard’s lawyers filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court in New York on Friday, seeking to rescind the parole conditions, calling them “onerous and oppressive.”

As part of his parole, Pollard must remain in the US for five years, although his lawyers have asked President Barack Obama to allow him to go to Israel immediately.

A US official said Obama did not have any plans to alter the terms of his parole to allow Pollard to leave the US.

Pollard, an American who was granted Israeli citizenship while in prison, has said he wants to emigrate to Israel, where his second wife lives and where he can expect to receive substantial Israeli government back pay.

“The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “After three long and difficult decades, Jonathan has been reunited with his family.”

Netanyahu has urged Israelis to stay low key about Pollard’s release because of concerns that too warm a celebration might damage efforts to persuade the US government to let him leave for Israel sooner.

Successive US administrations had resisted Israeli calls to show the unrepentant Pollard clemency, though Washington did, at times, mull an early release as part of its efforts to revive talks on Palestinian statehood in Israel-occupied territories.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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