Vanunu's Testimony

Yediot Ahronot
November 24, 1999
By Michal Goldberg

In the course of his testimony, in which Mordechai Vanunu reconstructed his abduction from Europe to Israel, he described the terrifying moments he had experienced; the fear that he would be eliminated; the beatings he claims he received; the chains in which he was bound, and the chilling encounter with the 'blond man', one of the abductors whom he apparently recognized.

In the part of the transcript given below, Vanunu was being questioned by his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman. In the course of the proceedings the sides did not go into great detail about the events, and the Prosecutor Uzi Hasson repeatedly referred to the 'order of confidentiality' which the State had issued, forbidding a discussion of many details of the story. The judges also reminded the defendant and the defence lawyer about the existence of the confidentiality. In addition, other details which appear in the original transcript have been erased by the State before it was released for publication.

Attorney Feldman: 'Speak clearly to the microphone. We are starting in a certain country, at a moment when...'

Prosecutor Hasson: 'I said he was not to lead [the defendant].'

Feldman (to the defendant): 'I'm asking you to try and raise your voice. I know you're excited and all that...'

Hasson: 'I'm asking my friend again, not to lead the witness.'

Feldman: 'Because of the confidentiality, I'm leading him not to say those things.'

The exchange between them covers several pages of the transcript, and finally Feldman returned to the description of the abduction in Europe, in a country which, according to foreign evidence and publications, was Italy.

Feldman: 'How did you feel about what they were going to do to you?'

Vanunu: 'I don't know, in the beginning, in the first stage, something dreadful.'

Feldman: 'What do you mean?'

Vanunu: 'It's something dreadful when you're snatched, kidnapped, they can eliminate you, take you somewhere else. Everything is possible. I was aware that in a kidnapping accidents can happen - death, such things. That is, even if they didn't intend to kill me in the first place...'

Feldman: 'Leave it.'

Hasson: 'Let him go on.'

Feldman: 'You want him to go on? By all means.'

Vanunu: 'I didn't know what was happening exactly. I wasn't sure that that's it, they're going to shoot me, or kill me. But when something dreadful is being done, something that can cause death, and I don't know anything, I'm in a situation that this is the first minute, the first two minutes, and I don't know what's happening...'

Feldman: 'What happened next?'

Vanunu: 'Those two minutes lasted awfully long, and I start to think about my life, I see pictures from the past, now I'm describing the first two minutes and I don't see a thing... I start to think about what might happen, about death... In those moments I saw a possibility of death. That is, it didn't matter to them if I come out of this alive or dead. So I assumed that in future also my life won't be worth much.'

Feldman: 'Not worth much?'

Vanunu: 'Not worth much, that is, that such a thing could happen in future too, but how it would happen and exactly what would happen and whom, nothing...'

Feldman: 'What was your first contact, with whom was your first contact?'

Vanunu: 'As soon as I woke up and sat up, after half an hour, the blond guy came in, the one who kicked me and beat me up later... When I saw him I was shocked, I said to myself, here's that man... Well, what could I... I take it into my mind, here is that man. He looked at me, I looked at him, he says nothing. Looks at me, shut the door and goes. After a while he brought me... I asked him to open the chains.'

Feldman: 'What language did you speak to him?'

Vanunu: 'I asked him to open the... I ate a little, I didn't have much appetite. I gave them back the food and he left.'

Feldman: 'Can you estimate how time passed?'

Vanunu: 'A very subjective estimate, something like... [censored passage], something like that. But maybe it was [censored], I don't know...'

Feldman: 'The part when you were on the bed, what condition were you in?'

Vanunu: 'When I regained consciousness I found myself... [censored]. Maybe a doctor would say that it was because of the fear that I'd experienced, but I don't know. That's what I remember vaguely.'

Feldman: 'What was your condition with regard to binding? Were you bound or free?'

Vanunu: [his answer is censored].

In the course of his testimony Vanunu stated that he was beaten and kicked. However, his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, stated in another stage of the trial that his client was not tortured: 'Beyond the fact that he was entirely helpless in the hands of his captors and was chained in a sealed room, there is no argument that he was physically tortured, no argument that he was beaten.'

Feldman also argued that Vanunu cooperated with the interrogators after he was mentally broken. 'His free will vanished completely. He was entirely dependent on his abductors, a man without any control over his fate, a man who would do anything to satisfy the people who hold his fate in their hands. He was feeling a total helplessness. Total helplessness.'