President Pardons Convicted KGB Spy Shabtai Kalmanovich
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel said it pardoned a convicted KGB spy today in an effort to improve relations with Moscow and obtain exit visas for Jews still barred from leaving Russia.
President Chaim Herzog said he erased the remaining 45 months from Shabtai Kalmanovich’s nine-year prison term, and the Prison Authority said he would be freed later in the day.
Kalmanovich, 47, immigrated from the Soviet Union in 1971 and established himself as an international businessman, cultivating friendships with senior political and military figures.
He was arrested in December 1987 and convicted a year later of spying for the KGB. He was tried in secret and specifics of the offense have never been revealed.
A statement from Herzog’s office said Israel bowed to Russian government appeals, and expected the move to improve ties with Moscow and win exit visas for Russian Jews who have been barred from emigrating because they possess sensitive security information.
It said consultations among Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and justice, foreign affairs and security officials led to a recommendation that Herzog commute the sentence.
The Kalmanovich case surfaced just as two decades of hostility between Israel and the Soviet Union were ending, and the two countries were moving toward re-establishing diplomatic ties.
Since late 1989, over 450,000 Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel. Diplomatic ties, severed by Moscow following the 1967 Middle East war, were resumed in 1991, and Russia is now a co-sponsor of the Mideast peace talks.
Kalmanovich, who is Jewish, wants to remain in Israel, his lawyer Amnon Zichroni told the national news agency Itim.