Only a week after they heard oral arguments in the case, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan issued a written ruling on Wednesday rejecting Jonathan Pollard’s appeal of a lower-court judge’s refusal of his habeus corpus petition seeking the removal of broad and severe parole restrictions.
The timing of the ruling — coming a day after President Trump concluded a trip to Israel — caught Pollard’s supporters by surprise.
In a sharply written statement to Hamodia, the Free Pollard Campaign said that the timing of this decision, which normally takes months, but was delivered in less than a week after oral arguments, was intended as a “slap across Israel’s face.”
“The timing and substance of the Second Circuit’s denial of Jonathan Pollard’s appeal to lift his Draconian parole restrictions reflect politics, not due process. The decision was handed down with unprecedented speed obviously calculated to occur simultaneously with President’s Trump’s departure from Israel and with Yom Yerushalyim,” the group noted.
“Coming on the heels of the U.S. President’s compromise of an Israeli intelligence operation and the consequent endangerment of the life of an Israeli agent, this unambiguous insult to Israel via the Second Circuit, is revealing of the new U.S. administration’s continuing tolerance of the anti-Israel agenda by those elements in the American Defense and Intelligence communities hostile to the U.S. – Israel special relationship.
“This official belligerence will not be camouflaged by photo-ops and heart-warming speeches. Unless and until Jonathan Pollard is allowed to come home to Israel, the U.S. intelligence war-in-the-shadows against Israel will continue unabated,” the statement concluded.
Pollard, who was released from prison in November 2015 after serving an unprecedented 30 years for passing classified information to an ally, Israel, is currently required to wear a GPS monitoring system that consists of a non-removable transmitter installed on his wrist, and a receiver that is plugged into an outlet in his Manhattan residence. Whenever he moves outside the range of the receiver, the transmitter — which is three inches long and two inches wide — acts as a GPS tracker and monitors his location. Were Pollard to step out of his tiny studio apartment to daven with a minyan or get some fresh air on Shabbos or Yom Tov, the battery would begin to drain, forcing him to choose between violating Shabbos or facing re-arrest.
The parole restrictions also include a “curfew” that puts him under house arrest between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. During the daytime, he is only permitted to travel in parts of Manhattan, and is even prohibited from visiting nearby Brooklyn. The restrictions also include the unfettered monitoring and inspection of his computers, as well as those of any employer who chooses to hire him, which has prevented him from being able to gain employment.
In a summary order — a ruling that does not have precedential effect — the judges wrote that “we are mindful that [our] review of parole commission decisions is ‘extremely limited’ to whether the commission has abused its ‘broad discretion to determine parole eligibility’ and to “interpret its own regulations. As such, a federal reviewing court may not substitute its own judgment for that of the Commission or gainsay the Commission’s credibility determinations and factual findings.”
“We are disappointed in the result,” Eliot Lauer, Pollard’s longtime pro-bono lawyer, told Hamodia on Wednesday afternoon, adding that he was also disappointed that “the court did not leave the checklist and confront the Commission on the fact the restrictions are unnecessary and completely unfair.”
Legal experts contacted by Hamodia on Wednesday said that they were “astounded” by the ruling.
A legal observer who has been following the Pollard case for many years told Hamodia that he was particularly struck by the fact that the court said it found no “abuse” in the fact that the Commission, when concluding that Pollard presented a risk of flight, gave weight to a letter from two Members of Congress articulating “Mr. Pollard’s wish to move to Israel.”
“If a U.S. Court of Appeals can allow a lawful request by two Congressmen, no less, for permission to be granted to allow Pollard to leave to Israel, to be used as proof that he is a flight risk, there is something very wrong with our justice system,” the observer noted.
One noted attorney who has been practicing law in American courts for more than four decades, told Hamodia that he was mortified by the ruling.
“It is clear that these judges made up their minds long before the oral arguments took place,” the attorney, who spoke to Hamodia on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, noted. “It is frightening to think that any court in the United States would restrict an American citizen’s freedom in this manner based simply on the government saying that it was necessary — without any sort of evidence or due process. Our courts now provide more protection for foreign Moslems than for an American Jew. This should be a wake-up call to everyone,” the attorney added. “If this can happen to Jonathan Pollard, it can happen to anyone.”