JERUSALEM – Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday to grant him special prisoner status, which likely would be a major boost in his fight for freedom, and to investigate what his petition calls Israel’s mishandling of his case and years of abuse and torture suffered in U.S. imprisonment.
Pollard is demanding Israel’s highest court recognize him as a Prisoner of Zion, a status that obligates the Jewish state to do everything in its power to seek his release and may provide the U.S. and Israel a basis for immediate negotiations.
The case continues Pollard’s proactive approach of petitioning Israel to lobby on his behalf. The result thus far is the Israeli government’s granting of citizenship and recognition as an official agent of the state.
Esther Pollard, who flew to Israel for the court hearing, told WND, “If they don’t give my husband, who is recognized as a bona fide Israeli agent, special status now and fight for his release, they will be sending a clear message to all who are working in Israeli intelligence that if you get caught, you’re on your own.”
The entire, original Prisoners of Zion organization previously requested Israel grant Pollard the special status, which usually is reserved for prisoners who are treated poorly by their host countries. Pollard’s legal appeal, filed in Hebrew and obtained by WND, includes graphic descriptions of abuse Pollard says he suffered in U.S. jails.
“A unique aspect of this case which testifies to its anti-Semitic nature includes the use of cruel and unusual punishment,” states the brief.
Pollard relates conditions surrounding the first prison to which he was transferred, during cold winter months: “The petitioner [Pollard] was thrown into an unheated dungeon cell in the basement of the prison. His clothes and his glasses were taken away. He remained naked and without glasses for the 5 weeks [he was at the prison]. In his cell, he was given no bedding, no blankets, just a hard metal slab to sleep on … .”
Pollard says he was subject to torture treatments in which he repeatedly was chained to an iron chair, bolted to the floor of a shower stall and blasted with torrents of ice water for long periods of time.
“The petitioner recalls that the water was so cold, that it felt like it was burning his skin. The petitioner further recalls that it took all of his strength to will himself to stay alive.”
Pollard was then transferred to a facility for the criminally insane, even though he was not a patient. There, he says he was electrocuted with a cattle prod and repeatedly singled out to be physically abused and publicly humiliated, as the only prisoner to be subject to “painful anal exams in a public visiting room.” The petition states Pollard was held naked, in solitary confinement in a 9 x 6-foot cell for the duration of his incarceration at the facility – over a year.
Pollard claims guards at the prison facility “sought to break [him] by zapping him with a cattle prod as a ‘warning.’ The electrical voltage of a cattle prod is intended for a large animal, not for a human being. The petitioner collapsed on the floor, lost control of his bladder, was unable to speak or to move. His body convulsed in unstoppable contractions, causing him to shiver and shake for hours on end. He suffered severe physical repercussions for months afterwards. To this day it is not known if permanent damage was done.”
Pollard later was transferred to USP Marion, termed by many the harshest prison in the federal system, where, upon arrival, Pollard says, “a guard put a loaded shotgun to the petitioner’s head, cocked the trigger, and ordered him to turn around and face the outside. When he did so, the guard intoned: ‘Now have a good long look. This is the last time you will ever see the outside. When they take you out of here it will be in a wooden box, feet first.’”
He was held in Marion for seven years in solitary confinement in a small dungeon cell, where Pollard says he repeatedly was told he would not leave the facility alive – a theme he says permeated his incarceration. He also says he was subject to anti-Semitic humiliation.
In one scenario, which was witnessed and retold to the Israeli media by a prominent Jewish leader who came to visit Pollard, “a guard tore the petitioner’s yarmulke (Jewish skull cap) off his head and threw it to the ground. When the petitioner bent over to retrieve it, he was attacked by the guard who slammed him up against a wall. As the petitioner was trying to recover his balance, the guard grabbed the petitioner’s testicles and crushed them; the petitioner doubled over in pain, unable to defend himself. The guard continued to mock the petitioner, asking him if he still wants his yarmulke. The incident was reported to the prison authorities; the guard was not punished. It was also reported in Israel’s press and to the Israeli government, but again there was no protest.”
Pollard lists another instance of abuse he says he suffered at Marion in which he was sprayed with chemicals: “The petitioner was held in a sealed underground cell, with no windows and no way to escape the poison chemicals that were pumped into his cell (ostensibly to kill cockroaches.) The petitioner’s throat swelled up from the chemicals; he could not breathe. He began to choke. He vomited. His eyes swelled shut. He began shaking and was in great pain. His head began to throb. He lost consciousness. Before he passed out, he pleaded with the guards to remove him from his cell but they refused. The petitioner suffered from severe headaches, nausea and dizziness for weeks after this episode. It is not clear if there has been permanent damage to his respiratory system.”
Pollard includes descriptions of episodes of severe sensory deprivation to which he was subjected, he says, for prolonged periods of time.
The appeal concludes that the extensive and repeated episodes of abuse Pollard suffered have damaged his health and resulted in numerous medical conditions.
“The petitioner has been diagnosed with growths in his sinus cavities. These growths have never been biopsied and it is unknown if they are malignant or benign. As a result he suffers from dizziness, nausea and severe sinus headaches as well as difficulty in breathing. The petitioner also suffers from high blood pressure, migraine headaches, chronic arthritis, glaucoma, diabetes, back problems, constant respiratory infections and a number of other health problems. … The petitioner is not able to receive treatment from the appropriate medical specialists.”
The appeal also seeks a judicial review of what Pollard calls the Israeli government’s “calculated mishandling” of his case for the last two decades, as well as its “consistent refusal to mount an effective campaign to secure his freedom, as it has done for agents captured in other countries, including Cyprus, Switzerland, Jordan, and New Zealand.”
Pollard’s sentence is considered by many to be disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted – he is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for this particular offense is two to four years.
The verdict largely was thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in which he falsely accused Pollard of treason – a crime for which he never was indicted – and claimed Pollard harmed America’s national security.
But even Weinberger now says the sentence may be about something else.
Weinberger said in a recent interview that the Pollard issue “is a very minor matter, but made very important. … It was made far bigger than its actual importance.”
Pollard previously told WND the information he passed to Israel forewarned the Jewish state about the buildup of unconventional weapons of war in neighboring Arab countries, including the buildup of arms by Saddam Hussein for use against Israel.
Says Esther Pollard: “Jonathan more than qualifies on all levels for Prisoner of Zion status. It’s time for the Israeli government to actually do something positive to bring my husband home.”