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JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israelis are rallying behind convicted spy Jonathan Pollard like never before, urging the U.S. on Sunday to let the former Pentagon analyst leave prison to attend his father's funeral.
Israelis widely feel that after 25 years behind bars, Pollard has been excessively punished, and they seem puzzled over the U.S. refusal to set him free, despite recent calls for his release from some prominent former American officials.
Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers enough classified documents to fill a walk-in closet.
Arrested in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Pollard was convicted and sentenced to life in prison two years later. Pollard is scheduled for release in 2015, according to a U.S. Justice Department Web site.
Nachman Shai, an Israeli lawmaker leading a campaign on Pollard's behalf, said Israel has done everything it reasonably could to repair the damage done by the scandal.
"Israel has already apologized," he said. "Israel accepted responsibility."
It also pledged years ago to halt espionage against its main ally.
Pollard advocates claim that other spies convicted of far worse crimes against America - including on behalf of actually hostile nations - have received lesser sentences and have been released earlier than Pollard.
Nearly two-thirds of the members of Israel's parliament signed the call asking that Pollard be allowed to attend his father's funeral Monday in Indiana, and dozens rallied for Pollard in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally appealed for Pollard's freedom as well.