Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was released on Friday after 30 years in a U.S. prison, receiving a muted response from Israel’s prime minister in a case that has strained relations between the two allies.
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”
Pollard will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times. His computers and those of his employer will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection,” his lawyers said.
As part of his parole, Pollard must remain in the United States for five years, although his lawyers have asked President Barack Obama to allow him to go to Israel immediately.
A U.S. official said Obama did not have any plans to alter the terms of his parole to allow Pollard leave the United States.
In the meanwhile, Pollard has gotten a job with an investment firm in New York City, his lawyers said, but they did not identify the firm.
Pollard 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 U.S. government to let him leave for Israel sooner.
Successive U.S. 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.