Barak Regime Turns Ugly

The one-year-old Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, supposedly more liberal than its predecessors, has disappointed many by turning viciously against Mordechai Vanunu - even to the point of threatening to keep him jailed beyond the expiration of his 18-year prison term.

Rather than easing Vanunu’s isolation as a “security prisoner,” as many had hoped, the goverrnment has maintained the tight limitations on who may visit him and reinstated the former practice of censoring and delaying his outgoing mail.

Even more troubling are letters from government officials hinting that Vanunu, who leaked information about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal 13 years ago, may never be released because he still possesses nuclear secrets that could harm Israel.

That inference can be drawn from letters sent to Vanunu supporters from Heim Mandel Shaked, head of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, who wrote: “ Vanunu cannot be released because this would pose a real danger to the security of our country.” (Under Israeli law security prisoners can be detained beyond the expiration of their prison terms. Vanunu's sentence will expire on September 30, 2004.)

The British and American Vanunu campaigns have challenged the Barak government’s position, noting that many nuclear weapons experts have held that Vanunu, a former mid-level technician, could not possibly have information that could compromise Israeli security.

Said Ernest Rodker, coordinator of the British campaign: “We call on the Israeli government to drop these spurious objections to his release and allow the Israeli parole board to consider the humanitarian case for Vanunu’s release on its merits.”

Added Sam Day, coordinator of the U.S. campaign: “If Barak intends on these grounds to stretch an 18-year sentence into life imprisonment he should say so clearly so that the world may judge the quality of justice in Israel. If not, he should give this man his long-overdue freedom.”