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The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected Jonathan Pollard's petition to be recognized as a Prisoner of Zion on the grounds that he was jailed by US authorities for spying against his country and not for conducting Zionist activity in a country where such activity is prohibited.
Pollard, who was represented by attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, first applied to the Prisoners of Zion Authority in the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption on May 10, 2004. After the authority and a subsequent appeals committee rejected his request, he petitioned the High Court of Justice.
On Monday, after publication of the High Court verdict, Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post that "after Pollard had been abandoned by the executive and legislative branches of government, she had hoped the judicial branch would do the right thing. But the court preferred to shut its eyes and do nothing."
According to the Law of Benefits for Prisoners of Zion and Their Families, which established the Prisoners of Zion Authority, anyone designated a Prisoner of Zion, or members of his family, is entitled to financial compensation. But Darshan-Leitner said Pollard had asked to be recognized as a Prisoner of Zion to improve his prison circumstances and help get him out of jail altogether.
"If he were declared a Prisoner of Zion, the US and Israel would do everything to get him released because neither country would want to be responsible for a Prisoner of Zion being in jail," she said. "Furthermore, it would stop jailers from tormenting and torturing him as they are doing now."
But the court ruled that from a legal point of view, there was nothing it could do. According to the law, a Prisoner of Zion is defined as someone who was imprisoned "because of his Zionist activity in a country where such activity was illegal."
Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, defined "Zionist activity" as activity "which would be considered legitimate in most countries of the world. Typical Zionist activity would include identifying with the State of Israel and its cultural contents such as teaching Hebrew and encouraging aliya."
Someone incarcerated for such activities would be eligible for Prisoner of Zion status, explained Barak.
But spying for Israel does not belong to this category of activities, said Barak.
"It cannot be said that an act of espionage on behalf of Israel constitutes Zionist activity 'in a country where Zionist activity is prohibited,'" he wrote. "The act of spying, including spying for Israel, is prohibited in the US as it is in all countries."