Vanunu waiting for judge to decide whether
or not to drop charges
Mordechai Vanunu, a Morocco born Orthodox Jew who converted to Christianity a few weeks before sharing what he knows with a British newspaper in 1986, is being tried in a Jerusalem magistrate court for violating government restrictions following his release from prison in April 2004. The restrictions already upheld twice by the Israeli Supreme Court forbid his submitting to interviews by foreign journalists, exchanging information with other foreigners or leaving Israel. Not wanting to live in "Israel," he has been a guest at the Anglican Cathedral of St. George in occupied East Jerusalem since his release.
Specifically Vanunu is charged with giving interviews to foreign journalists twenty one times, conducting chat room conversations with other foreigners, and attempting to travel to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, 2004. His defense is being conducted by internationally known Israeli human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman. Advocate Feldman is asking Judge Yoel Zur to dismiss the charges. Technical flaws in the prosecution's case, Feldman contends, fail to prove the accusations "beyond reasonable doubt."
With respect to alleged interviews with foreign journalists, Feldman sought to show the court that citizenship registrations kept by the Ministry of the Interior are not 100 percent accurate as to who is and who is not an Israeli citizen. In addition, he contends that by failing to interrogate the alleged foreign journalists, there "is no proof that those interviews actually took place;" and because Ministry of Interior records list, for instance, twenty-seven Amy Goodmans as Israeli citizens, any one of them might well have conducted the specific interview listed in the charge rather than Democracy Now's Amy Goodman.
Then there is the question of chat room internet conversations copied and transcribed from Vanunu's computer. Feldman argued that those conversations are privileged and require the same kind of authorization by the court to monitor and introduce as evidence as telephone conversations. The conversations, prosecution argues, are not that private.
About his would-be Christmas Eve pilgrimage Bethlehem, Feldman 1) uncovered the fact that strictly speaking Vanunu still was in Israel when arrested by police and 2) official Israeli legal descriptions of its borders make clear that entering the occupied territories is actually not leaving the country.
Even though the case is being tried in the lowest tier in the Israeli court system and the maximum sentence that could be imposed if Vanunu is found guilty is six months, Feldman said that this case is one of the most significant he has ever defended "because it involves important issues about the Israeli government producing weapons of mass destruction and Vanunu's right to let the people know about that."
The judge is expected to rule on the dismissal of charges request on February