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Trump pardons Israeli officer who recruited spy Pollard

Outgoing US President Donald Trump in Georgia, US on 4 January 2021 [Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency]

In his final hours in office, outgoing US President Donald Trump issued a full pardon to Aviem Sella today, an Israeli Air Force colonel who was indicted by a US federal grand jury in 1987 for espionage. Sella recruited Jonathan Pollard, who spied on America and passed US intelligence secrets to Israel.

Sella, 75, fled after Pollard was arrested in 1985. Sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage, Pollard was freed on parole in 2015 and migrated to Israel month when his parole period expired. He was welcomed on the tarmac by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, having reportedly flown to Israel in a private jet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major Trump donor and leading Zionist who has since died.

"Mr Sella's request for clemency is supported by the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, the United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Miriam Adelson," said the White House. "The State of Israel has issued a full and unequivocal apology, and has requested the pardon in order to close this unfortunate chapter in US-Israel relations."

Pollard issued a statement welcoming Sella's pardon. "It puts an end to the bleeding wound of the incident after 35 years," he said.

According to Haaretz, Trump also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former Republican Jewish Coalition board member and a top fundraiser for his 2016 election campaign. Broidy was convicted of accepting millions of dollars to lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Another person pardoned was Sholam Weiss, a Hasidic businessman from New York, who was sentenced to 845 years in prison in 2000 for masterminding one of the largest insurance fraud scams in history.

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