Interior Minister extends ban on Vanunu leaving country by one year
By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters
Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz decided Tuesday to ban nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu from leaving the country for a further 12 months due to concerns he could harm national security.
Pines-Paz told Army Radio he would prevent Vanunu from obtaining an Israeli passport necessary to leave the country for another year.
MK Zahava Gal-On (Yahad) had asked Pines-Paz to cancel the order preventing Vanunu from getting a passport.
" He collected enormous amounts of information, a large part of which is still relevant, I am sorry to say ... [and] he says 'the moment that I can, I will publish it', Pines-Paz told Army Radio.
"When a man says that he will harm national security, where does that leave us? ... [This is] a preventive step and we have no choice but to use it."
Vanunu was released from prison last April after serving an 18-year sentence for spilling Israel's nuclear secrets to a British newspaper.
Vanunu was due Tuesday to address a session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to speak about the restrictions imposed on him since his release from prison. He, however, decided that did not want to appear before the committee, Israel Radio reported.
MK Issam Makhoul (Hadash) called for the meeting and among those due to attend were Vanunu's adoptive parents, Nick and Mary Eoloff, who came specially from the United States; Vanunu supporter Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Ireland, the 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate; journalist Uri Avneri; and Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel at the Association of Civil Rights in Israel.
Mahoul said that Vanunu did not wish to participate in a "game that was rigged against him." Mahoul told those present that there was no justification for placing restrictions on Vanunu after he had spent 18 years in prison. He added that the fact the interior minister had decided to extend the restrictions on the day that the panel was meeting to discuss the matter showed that the committee had been duped.
The committee chairman, MK Michael Eitan, said Monday that, "I believe in an open-door policy. I am prepared to extend respect to a man convicted of spying, just as I respect someone who has received the Israel Security Prize. I don't believe in shutting people's mouths. Vanunu served his sentence and has a right to present his position."