American organization lobbying Senate for Vanunu's release

By Nitzan Horowitz, Ha'aretz Correspondent
Monday, September 6, 1999

WASHINGTON - An organization of American activists calling itself the "U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu" is currently attempting to recruit U.S. senators for a joint appeal to President Clinton to press Israel to release Vanunu on humanitarian grounds.

Vanunu, 44, is serving 18 years in prison for publishing information on the atomic reactor in Dimona, where he had worked for nine years.

The organization, headed by Samuel Day of Wisconsin, was encouraged by its success in organizing a similar appeal in the House of Representatives several months previously. That appeal included the signatures of 36 representatives, who wrote that Vanunu had suffered enough for "a crime of conscience." Clinton replied to that appeal writing: "We are closely following the matter of Mr. Vanunu's incarceration", the president wrote. "We are particularly concerned by reports of the conditions under which he is being held. I also share your concerns on the matter of Israel's nuclear program. We have consistently implored Israel to sign the [Nuclear Non-proliferation] Treaty, and to accept the conditions of the Atomic Energy Commission. We will continue to raise these subjects in our discussions with Israel."

Last month, the organization hired the services of lobbyist Tim Rieger in order to push their campaign in the Senate. Two Jewish senators, Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) and Barbara Boxer (D-California), have already expressed support for Vanunu's release.

Sen. Wellstone, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, recently sent the president a letter asking him to: "Review Mr. Vanunu's case on humanitarian grounds, as I believe that this case may involve international human rights issues that transcend national boundaries and that these issues should be considered in reviewing Mr. Vanunu's case."

Wellstone is acting on behalf of the Mary and Nicholas Eoloff, the Minnesota couple who adopted Vanunu two years before. Sen. Boxer has said that the Vanunu case has exceptional significance, as it involves an act of conscience - exposing the production of nuclear weapons in the hopes of realizing global peace.

His supporters hope to come to Israel to meet with Justice Minister Yossi Beilin.

      © copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

'Mordechai is our seventh son'

By Nitzan Horowitz

WASHINGTON - The state of Minnesota views Mordechai Vanunu as the legal son of Mary and Nicholas Eoloff, the St. Paul couple who adopted the Israeli security prisoner two years ago. The Eoloffs are veteran peace activists who have campaigned against nuclear weapons and for global disarmament.

* "We acted out of frustration. We joined the Organization for the Release of Vanunu, had hundreds of people sign petitions, and sent letters to Congress, to the government, to the president, and received no reply. We wanted to find a way to help him, and so we decided to adopt him. We hope he'll come to the U.S. He's our son."

* How many children do you have? "Six. In their 40s. Mordechai is our seventh son. I hope the adoption will accelerate his release."

* Have you met with him? "Yes. Three times. The last time was in September 1998."

* What do think the odds are of that happening soon? "I hope the coming of a new government will increase his chances. Israel always claimed to hold him for security reasons. The new government says that it wants reconciliation, and seems less intimidated. Those are good signs. I'm more optimistic that during the Netanyahu regime."

© copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved