Setting the State Department Straight About Mordechai

An open letter to Barbara Larkin, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs:

Dear Barbara: There you go again.

In your recent letter to Rep. Tom Campbell of California, responding to an inquiry, you said Mordechai Vanunu had a fair trial and is doing well in prison as far as you know.

We offer the following observations in the hope of assisting you to meet your responsibility to inform Members of Congress and U.S. Senators accurately and fully about this case:

Mr. Vanunu was not tried in accordance with due process of law, as you stated. He was abducted from Italy by Israeli agents in violation of Italian and international law. He was tried in secret and denied access to witnesses of his choosing.

It is true that he was released from solitary confinement 18 months ago, but you neglected to mention that he continues to be held under tight security restrictions, that he is denied access to a priest, that no one may visit him except close relatives, that he is forbidden to communicate with the news media, and that his mail is delayed by prison censors for periods up to four months.

Despite his present freedom to mingle with other prisoners, the parole board continues to treat him as a security risk, refusing him parole even though he has completed two-thirds of his 18-year sentence - the point at which most prisoners are customarily granted parole in Israel.

Considerations such as these may have been what prompted President Clinton to write last April, responding to a letter from 36 Members of Congress, that he shares their concern about Mr. Vanunu's prison conditions.