Court Orders Emergence of 'Man in the Iron Mask'

Mordechai Vanunu lost one court battle after another in Israel this summer, but he won a legal skirmish that gave him the right to have his picture in the paper.

Appearing before the High Court of Justice on June 21, attorney Avigdor Feldman argued that it was time for his client to be freed from the "iron mask" guards had sometimes used to prevent Vanunu from speaking to journalists in past court hearings.

Vanunu in chains.  Flanked and handcuffed by two guards, Vanunu
poses for a recent court-ordered photograph.

Prosecutor Dvora Chen objected, saying Vanunu might take the occasion to blurt out state secrets. The court agreed with her but permitted the prisoner to be photographed in private by a court official.

Feldman and Chen also tangled on his proposal that the record of Vanunu's closed-door trial and sentencing be made public. Chen objected on grounds of state security but offered to reassess the material with a view to declassifying some of it.

Courts also have rejected Vanunu's requests that he be returned to Italy, where he was kidnapped by Israeli agents in 1986, that he be lodged with Palestinian prisoners, and that he be permitted to confer with two British attorneys who have offered to help him sue the Israeli government in the British courts for conspiring to lure him to Rome, where he was kidnapped and returned to Israel in 1986.

Still pending before the Israeli Supreme Court is his appeal of the prison's denial of parole after completion of two-thirds of his 18-year sentence, upheld last year by the Beersheba District Court.