Mordechai Still Hopeful Despite Crackdown

        The head of Prison Services in Israel has determined that there is no longer a need to hold Mordechai Vanunu in conditions of separation. But Vanunu is still considered a security prisoner, with all the pertinent implications. Under the present circumstances we must also weigh the country's security needs, which preclude his release.

        --March 16 letter to Nicholas and Mary Eoloff from David Bar-Illan, communications director for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

       A year after the denial of his bid for parole, Mordechai Vanunu remains an inmate of Israel's Ashkelon Prison, no less isolated from the outside world than he was during his 11 1/2 years of solitary confinement.

        Despite a governmental ruling that permits him to mingle with other prisoners, authorities continue to censor his mail and sometimes return packages unopened, to restrict visits to members of his immediate family, and to deny privileges routinely accorded to murderers, rapists, and other
perpetrators of more serious crimes.
        Vanunu's release from solitary confinement on March 12, 1998, raised hopes that he would soon be on his way to full freedom. But, in rapid succession, he was denied clemency by Israeli President Ezer Weizmann and rejected for parole on grounds that he remained a threat to Israel's
security and foreign policy. (Most prisoners are routinely granted parole in Israel after completing two-thirds of their sentences.)
        Vanunu's appeal of the parole denial was rejected last January by an Israeli court, which upheld the parole board's assertion that Vanunu remains a risk. Meanwhile, a new prison administration has tightened the restrictions on Vanunu's movements in the prison.
        Nicholas and Mary Eoloff of St. Paul, Minnesota, Vanunu's adoptive parents, have asked for State Department help in gaining liberalization of the rules restricting Vanunu's visitors to close relatives. They point out that Marcus Klingberg, recently released after serving 15 years of a
20-year sentence for espionage, regularly received visits from friends and supporters as well as members of his family.
        Despite these circumstances, Vanunu's morale remains high, according to his brother Asher, a Jerusalem teacher, who visits him frequently. The prisoner is maintaining his voluminous correspondence and welcomes letters from abroad. He can be reached at Ashkelon Prison, Ashkelon, Israel.