JERUSALEM – Jonathan Pollard (search), an American imprisoned in the United States for spying for Israel, is seeking to be declared a Prisoner of Zion — a status that would require Israel to do all it can to get him released, his lawyer said Sunday.
Israel (search), which has pressed the issue of releasing Pollard with the U.S. government, has so far refused to assign him that status, which was originally created for Jewish activists imprisoned in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and '80s.
Pollard's petition alleges he was kept naked for more than a year in solitary confinement in subzero temperatures. It claims his U.S. jailers also soaked him with ice water, forced him to sleep on a bare concrete slab, and lied to him that the Israeli government had arranged his release.
His lawyer, Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, said Pollard has complained about torture to the U.S. Embassy since the outset of his imprisonment nearly 19 years ago, but this is the first time the complaints have been included in a legal document.
The document asks Israel's Supreme Court to force the government to declare Pollard a Prisoner of Zion (search), she said.
Asked what took Pollard so long to go public with the alleged torture, Darshan-Leitner said he did so after despairing of persuading the Israeli government to declare him a Prisoner of Zion.
Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers classified documents. He was not paid when his spying began in 1984, but acknowledged that Israel later began paying him a few thousand dollars a month.
Pollard was caught in November 1985 and arrested after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy. His case has strained U.S.-Israeli relations.
Pollard has spent his time in several U.S. federal prisons, most recently at the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, N.C. Prison officials did not immediately return a message Sunday.