Vanunu Visitors Raise Hopes of Release in 2000

The London Sunday Times
December 19 1999

by Peter Hounam

A pre-Christmas visit by his adoptive parents last week has boosted the morale of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli technician serving an 18-year sentence for leaking his country's nuclear secrets to The Sunday Times. At the same time, hopes have risen that he might win his freedom early next year through two new initiatives.

Vanunu has served more than 13 years, 12 in solitary confinement, since telling his story of working at the top-secret Dimona nuclear centre and his subsequent abduction by a Mossad hit team. He has endured many legal rebuffs despite an international campaign for his release. His adoption is one of the most bizarre developments.

Reading of his plight three years ago, Nick and Mary Eoloff, of St. Paul, Minnesota, a retired couple with six children, decided to adopt him. They discovered there was no legal impediment, although Vanunu was then 42. They became his adoptive parents, though they had never met him and his biological parents were still alive.

The Israeli authorities granted them visiting rights. However, when the Eoloffs arrived 10 days ago for a fourth visit, they were barred without explanation. It took a court challenge by Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu's lawyer, to overturn the decision.

"We sat around for a week phoning everyone we knew and it was a miracle we finally made it," Mary Eoloff said. "Mordechai was so pleased to see us again. We hugged one another and chatted for an hour and a half. He looked much better than when we saw him last year, more philosophical about his situation.

"He said he had received hundreds of Christmas cards from all over the world and asked us to thank everybody for the support he is getting. He knows people in many countries are working for his release. All he wants to do is get out and begin a new life."

Vanunu supplied The Sunday Times with photographs and technical information showing that Israel had secretly produced nuclear weapons, including neutron bombs.

While in London, he was befriended by "Cindy," a Mossad agent posing as an American tourist. She lured him to Rome, where he was kidnapped. He was later tried and found guilty of treason and espionage.

Feldman has applied for a parole hearing next month and will call witnesses to testify that Vanunu has no sensitive information justifying his continued detention.

A second initiative has come from Yossi Katz, a member of the Israeli parliament, who is willing to lobby the Knesset to petition President Ezer Weizman for Vanunu's release. "My view is that, despite what he did, he should now be given his freedom," Katz said yesterday.