Israeli Nuclear Whistleblower in Court

The Associated Press
Monday, May 13, 2002

JERUSALEM - Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu made a rare court appearance Monday to request that secret documents from his trial be made public and to seek permission to meet with his British attorneys.

The gray-haired, tanned Vanunu arrived in court handcuffed and wearing brown prison garb. 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.

Vanunu, a former nuclear technician, was sentenced in 1988, two years after he gave The Sunday Times of London pictures of Israel's nuclear reactor near the Negev Desert town of Dimona. Israel, employing a policy it describes as "nuclear ambiguity," has never confirmed it has nuclear capability.

Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu's Israeli attorney, said Monday's Supreme Court hearing dealt mostly with a lower court ruling that Vanunu cannot access the protocols of his trial. No decision was made at the closed-door hearing.

"The decision is absurd. The trial is about him, he was the defendant in the trial. Just as he was present at the trial he should be allowed to read the protocols," Feldman told Israel Army Radio at the end of the three-hour closed-door session.

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.

In recent years, public debate on Israel's nuclear policy has picked up. In August 2000, the daily Yediot Ahronot published new satellite pictures of the desert reactor. A television documentary last year said the Jewish state developed its nuclear capability from French technology received in the 1950s.

-washingtonpost.com 2002 The Associated Press