Nuclear whistle-blower Vanunu loses fight to see British lawyers

By The Associated Press
July 25 2002

Imprisoned nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, in Jerusalem for May 13 court hearings. He was not allowed to see or speak with reporters, but the court allowed a photographer to take his picture for the first time in three years. The images appeared the next day in the country's major newspapers and on television news.
JERUSALEM - Mordechai Vanunu, serving a prison term for revealing what are said to be details of Israel's nuclear weapons, on Thursday lost a legal battle to meet British attorneys seeking to file a suit against Israel in a British court. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court judgment blocking prison visits by Vanunu's British lawyer and another ruling refusing a request for access to secret documents from his trial. Vanunu hoped to sue Israel for damages.

Vanunu, who is serving an 18-year prison term for treason, has spent several years in solitary confinement. He was recently granted permission to spend outdoor recesses with other inmates.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Eliezer Rivlin said Vanunu's offenses classified him as a security prisoner, subject to various restrictions. Among them, Rivlin said, was the limitation of prison visits to members of Vanunu's immediate family and his Israeli attorneys. Vanunu, a former nuclear technician, was sentenced in 1988, two years after he gave The Sunday Times of London pictures taken inside Israel's nuclear reactor complex near the Negev desert town of Dimona. Israel, employing a policy it describes as "nuclear ambiguity," has never confirmed it has nuclear weapons capability.

Based on Vanunu's pictures, experts concluded Israel had the world's sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. The CIA estimated more recently that Israel has between 200 and 400 nuclear weapons.