International Vigils Call for Vanunu's Release

September 30, 2002 marked the 16th anniversary of Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu's kidnapping and imprisonment. As in past years, his supporters around the world held vigils throughout that week calling for his immediate release.

On Friday, September 27, a noon hour vigil was held in Wellington, New Zealand on the steps of Parliament. Participants held signs and handed out leaflets. There were several speakers, including Parliament member Graham Kelly, and some of Mordechai's poems were recited.

Later that day, a vigil was held in Stockholm, Sweden. About 1,000 leaflets were passed out as speakers talked about Vanunu's case and nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Roland von Malmborg performed a song he wrote about Mordechai.

On Sunday, September 29, Amnesty International supporters of Vanunu in Hiroshima held a vigil in front of the A-bomb Dome. They walked in Peace Park, carrying their banners and collecting signatures on a petition for Vanunu's release.

That same day, two commemorative services were held at St. John's Anglican Church in Sydney, Australia. At each service, 16 candles were lit - one for each year of Mordechai's imprisonment. The morning service was attended by Meir Vanunu, Mordechai's brother. Most of the vigils took place on September 30. In Sydney, Irma Trnka, along with Rev. David Smith (who had met Mordechai in 1986), his wife and infant son (named Soren Lee Mordechai Smith) held a noon hour vigil at the Israeli embassy, handing out leaflets and speaking with passersby.

In London, England, 40 people held a three hour vigil at the street corner near the Israeli embassy where they've held their weekly vigil for more than 10 years. Surrounded by banners, placards and balloons calling for Vanunu's release, they distributed many leaflets and signed a large birthday card for Mordechai. Towards the end of the vigil they were entertained by a flute player and trumpeter.

Two additional vigils in the U.K were held in Leicester and Salisbury. Local Group 19 of Amnesty International in Lisbon, Portugal held two vigils on September 30, in the afternoon and evening. They marked an outline representing the size of Mordechai's cell on a Lisbon sidewalk with red tape. A stuffed manikin wearing a Vanunu mask was placed inside. Vigilers handed out leaflets to curious passersby, and at night placed candles on the pavement around the "cell". Several people held a noon hour vigil at the Israeli Consulate in Boston, U.S., calling for Vanunu's release. They held a banner and handed out leaflets. During the vigil, an Israeli woman stopped by with her family to say that she was glad the vigilers were there. At the end of the vigil, the group delivered a letter calling for Mordechai's release to the consulate.

In San Francisco, U.S., a dozen vigilers also held signs and passed out leaflets in front of the Israeli Consulate. After the vigil, Hal Carlstad attempted to deliver copies of the signed letter urging Mordechai's release, but it was refused. The letter was later mailed. Two days earlier, on September 28, the Bay Area Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu held a standing-room-only benefit near San Francisco at the Berkeley Unitarian Church. Daniel Ellsberg, suffering from a severe case of laryngitis, had prepared some remarks to be read by Joanna Macy, but couldn't help speaking out himself to honor Mordechai Vanunu.

Also on September 30, vigilers in Washington, D.C. carried signs and banners calling for freedom for Vanunu and peace in the Middle East as they walked up the road to the Israeli Embassy, leafletting along the way. Thirty-five people (and one dog) gathered at noon across the street from the embassy. Several of Mordechai's poems were read, and the group sang songs and signed a birthday card for Mordechai, as well as a letter to the ambassador calling for Vanunu's immediate release.

At the end of the vigil, several people crossed the road to the front of the embassy to deliver the letter. They were determined to stay until someone met with them, and after a short time Art Laffin, Colleen McCarthy, Susan Clarkson and Elayne McClanen, were arrested and charged with "refusing to move on". They were released from custody that evening and have a trial scheduled on December 12. The letter was later mailed to the ambassador.

A vigil in Vancouver, Canada, was attended by 25 people representing several organizations. They held signs calling for Vanunu's freedom, and handed out several hundred leaflets. Participants signed a large birthday card with individual messages, which was mailed the next day to Mordechai at Ashkelon Prison.

A dozen people in Toronto held a vigil across the street from the Israeli Consulate there. They distributed leaflets which included Vanunu's poem "I Am Your Spy", and held signs with 2 by 3 foot photocopies of the original London Sunday Times article of October 5, 1986 (which included Vanunu's photos and revelations regarding Israel's nuclear capability). Participants signed a birthday card for Mordechai, and two members of Toronto's Raging Grannies sang a song especially written for the imprisoned nuclear whistleblower.

On October 2, about 30 people, many from Women in Black, held a vigil outside the Israeli Embassy in Rome, Italy. Vigilers held striking black signs and banners with white letters, and distributed leaflets to passersby. They also collected signatures on a birthday card for Mordechai.

Thanks to these vigils, along with countless other acts of support and the many awards and honors given to Mordechai Vanunu , the Israeli government cannot help but be aware of the deeply held sentiment around the world that Vanunu's act of whistleblowing is a courageous act for which he should be commended, not imprisoned.

Photo by Peter Hall

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

Signatures on a birthday card for Mordechai,
London vigil

San Francisco
Photo by Bill Rushton

Photo by Thomas Asplund

Photo by Stephen Dankowich

Washington, D.C.
Photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa

Photo by Nilde Guiducci