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Spy sentenced to life in U.S. prison can now return to Israel after completing parole

A former spy who was once convicted to life with the possibility of parole under the Espionage Act has completed his parole and can return to Israel, his lawyers said Saturday. Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst who was convicted for selling thousands of documents to Israel, was the only American to ever receive a life sentence for spying for an ally.

Pollard was released from prison in 2015 after serving more than 30 years. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's media adviser said Saturday that Netanyahu "welcomes" Pollard's release and that Netanyahu "hopes to see Jonathan Pollard in Israel soon, and together with all Israelis."

The prime minister's statement thanked outgoing U.S. ambassador to Israel Ron Dermer for working with the Trump administration.

The U.S. Parole Commission said Friday that after five years on parole, Pollard's parole supervision is terminated and he is no longer subject to the conditions of parole.

"During the past five years, since his release on parole from federal prison, Mr. Pollard has been subject to these U.S. government restrictions," Pollard's lawyers said in a statement. "We are grateful and delighted that our client is finally free of any restrictions, and is now a free man in all respects. We look forward to seeing our client in Israel.

At the height of the Cold War, Pollard spent more than a year using his position as a U.S. Naval intelligence analyst to smuggle thousands of top-secret documents to his Israeli spymasters, who paid him handsomely. In 1987, Pollard was sentenced to life in prison; his then-wife Anne was sentenced to five years as an accessory after the fact.

In 1988, Pollard gave his first interview while in prison to "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace, which garnered significant controversy.

"I can give you a number of soft reasons why I was motivated to do what I did," he told Wallace. "Soft reasons, having to do with a family that was destroyed in the Holocaust, having to do with the realization that this government in the '40s had abandoned the Jewish people to its fate in Europe." 

There was also a "hard reason," he said: He believed Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense, was neglecting his obligation to Israel.

Pollard said Weinberger was withholding information Israel was entitled to receive under a secret U.S.-Israeli intelligence-sharing agreement. He told Wallace he didn't deserve a life sentence. "My sentence did not reflect proportional justice," he said. "It reflected political vengeance, plain and simple."

Pollard was arrested in 1985 after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, according to NPR, although former President Bill Clinton shot down a request for clemency. 

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