Parole Committee Decision
translated by Rayna Moss
State of Israel
(Under the Law on Conditional Release From Imprisonment, 2001)
In its seat at Eshel Prison
The Parole Committee met at Eshel Prison on 16.2.03
in the presence of:
Name of Prisoner: Vanunu Mordechai
Represented by Adv. Sfard
This is an additional hearing on the prisoner's application for release on parole, under Art. 19 of the Law on Conditional Release From Imprisonment, 2001 (hereinafter: "the Law").
The prisoner was sentenced on 27.3.88 in Criminal Case 461/86 in the District Court of Jerusalem, to 18 years imprisonment for assisting the enemy in war under Art. 99 of the Penal Code - 1977, handing over secret information with the intent of harming State security under Art. 113(b) of the said Code, and gathering secret information with the intent of harming State security under Art. 113(c) of the said Code.
The facts are known and therefore the Committee will repeat them in short.
The prisoner worked at the nuclear research compound in Dimona from 1976-1985.
After he resigned from his job he contacted researchers from the Sunday Times newspaper and gave them details about what he knew from his place of work, as well as photographs which he had taken there.
As a result from the aforesaid, an article was published that echoed around the world.
The Supreme Court, which rejected the prisoner's appeal, determined that the damage which he had caused to the State, in the long term and in the circumstances of the matter, were severe and widespread.
On 4.5.98 the prisoner's application for conditional release was discussed for the first time, and was rejected.
The Parole Committee noted in its decision, among other things, that it was convinced that the conditional release of the prisoner would pose a material and actual risk to the security and foreign relations of the State of Israel, and that this was very likely to happen.
The prisoner appealed to the District Court of Beersheba against that decision and lost the appeal.
Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was also denied.
On 13.6.00 an application for an additional hearing before the Parole Committee was rejected, among other things, on the grounds that the danger presented by the prisoner had not diminished.
The decision of the Parole Committee of 13.6.00 also addressed the prisoner's arguments concerning changed circumstances due to the prisoner having been removed from solitary confinement, as well as arguments concerning changed circumstances as the result of a change in policy on the nuclear issue, and these were also rejected.
The prisoner petitioned this Committee to hold an additional hearing on his application for conditional release.
On 26.5.02 the Committee made its decision, ex partae, in which it rejected the prisoner's petition to hold an additional hearing on his case.
The District Court, in an appeal against said decision, determined that the passage of time since the previous hearing on the prisoner's case justified conducting an additional hearing on his case, and instructed the Committee to hold a hearing with both parties present.
The Parole Committee summoned both parties and held a hearing on the prisoner's application.
The Parties' Arguments
The Respondent opposes conditional release, on the grounds that the prisoner would endanger public safety. In support of its arguments, the Respondent has submitted an opinion on behalf of the Commissioner of Security in the Ministry of Defense (hereinafter: "the Opinion" and "Malmab", accordingly), only part of which was revealed to the prisoner and to his attorney. According to the statements that were made in the opinion [words censored] the prisoner publicly declares, that he does not regret his actions and that he intends to continue to disseminate, at his own initiative, everything he knows about Israel's nuclear secrets. In addition, the prisoner declares that he will not rest nor remain silent [censored words]. According to the Opinion, the prisoner has expressed this position both at judicial hearings and in letters that he wrote to various people in the course of his imprisonment. The prisoner has declared, that he is prepared to testify [censored words] and that he intends to write books on the subject, to initiate the dissemination of information over the internet and to provide information to anyone who is interested.
Letters in this spirit were presented to the Committee.
The prisoner's attorney stated, that the prisoner does not pose any danger, both on the grounds that he does not possess any additional secrets, the revelation of which might endanger State security, and on the grounds, that the said information was revealed in the television program The Bomb in the Basement, by Mr. Shimon Peres.
The prisoner's attorney further argues, that the passage of time and the harsh conditions of the prisoner's imprisonment, should tip the scale in favor of early release, and that it would be preferable to release him gradually and with close supervision, than to release him at the end of his prison term, in one and a half years.
A videotape of the television program The Bomb in the Basement and part of the book by Eitan Haber and Yossi Melman, The Spies, were presented on behalf of the prisoner.
First, the Committee will discuss the arguments of the State, as far as concerns the danger that is envisioned due to the release of the prisoner, and later it will discuss the arguments of the prisoner's attorney, as they appeared in his oral summation and in his written arguments:
The Danger Posed by the Prisoner
It arises from the Opinion, that the danger posed by the prisoner derives from two sources. One, the absence of regret on the part of the prisoner, and his motivation to continue to disseminate everything he knows about Israel's nuclear secrets, [words censored].
The Opinion mentions five types of information, one of which, the names of people who worked at the NRC, was previously approved for publication by the District Court in the petition concerning the decision of the Parole Committee 1876/98 of 27.1.99. The remainder is secret.
The author of the Opinion was questioned by the Parole Committee and by the prisoner's attorney, at two separate sessions.
On the other hand, the prisoner's attorney argued, that the prisoner's struggle against the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a legitimate struggle, in which the prisoner is joined by many important organizations in the international community. While the prisoner, in his struggle to realize his ideology, committed offenses due to which he was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, at the present time the prisoner does not declare that he intends to break the law.
The Committee believes, that the prisoner still poses danger to State security.
With regards to the prisoner's motivation to continue revealing secret information that he possesses, this matter was discussed at length in the decision of the Parole Committee of 4.5.98. The Parole Committee relied on the psychiatric opinion, according to which the prisoner believes in the justice of his actions, he expresses no regret or guilt, and he declares, that if possible, he will continue to reveal the information that he possesses. The prisoner also declared to the prsion warden, that if he has the opportunity, he will sieze it and publicize the information that he possesses.
The District Court, in the petition concerning that decision, confirmed the Committee's conclusion, and stated as follows:
"The aforesaid shows the Petitioner's clear and deep motivation to continue the same activity due to which he was sentenced and which, according to the ruling of the Supreme Court, as was mentioned, is not of a solely ideological nature, but contains grave damage to State security.
This is not the case of a prisoner who has learned his lesson, has changed his views and concerning whom it may be assumed, that he will not repeat his criminal conduct, rather, this is a case of a person who declares time and again, that he will continue along the same route of activity which constitutes an offense that may endanger State security." (Prisoner's Petition 1876/98).
Similar statements were made in the decision of the Parole Committee of 12.6.00. The Parole Committee based its decision with regards to the danger posed by the prisoner, among other things, on a letter that the prisoner wrote to the espionage agencies of Israel and the world on 15.11.98, as follows:
"I Vanunu Mordechai announce to you by means of the agent of all espionage agencies. I am determined that the moment I am released if I am given the opportunity I will publicize all of my secrets and information [words censored] and this time I will go to America, to the Congress to the Senate, to the White House, to England Europe, I will give sworn testimony to report to them all of the crimes of the racist Zionist Jewish State."
These statements were made four years ago, and no evidence has been presented to the Committee, according to which the prisoner has changed his views and has repented. Quite the contrary; the Committee was shown letters which the prisoner recently wrote, from which it arises, that he remains loyal to his previous ideas and he still intends, upon his release, to contact various espionage agencies. For example, in a letter dated 8.12.02 the prisoner wrote as follows:
"I do not care to work for foreign spies when I'll be free or help F.B.I. C.I.A. if someone need anything from me but that will be direct and open"
[English in original, RM]
Thus, the prisoner has not proved that the circumstances have changed with regards to his motivation to continue to publicize secret information.
[Censored sentence]. The author of the Opinion was questioned about this matter by the Committee and by the prisoner's attorney, and her claims have not been refuted.
It should be mentioned, that this matter was also addressed in the ruling of the District Court on the aforementioned Petition 1876/98. The District Court, having studied the Opinion and having heard the statements of the representative of the security services, stated as follows:
"From the factual aspect, we have heard the statements that were made by the representative of the security services, who specified to us the various things that the Petitioner would be able to continue to disseminate and reveal if he is released, [censored words] and which contain a grave risk of continuing to cause the same danger both to the State's security and to its foreign relations, which was expressed in the statements of the Supreme Court that were quoted hereinabove. We hold these statements by the representative of the security services to be true and from the statements that were made by the Petitioner himself it arises, that his entire intention, after he is released, is nothing other than continuing the same actions that he previously carried out and which, as the Supreme Court determined, contain grave damage to State security."
To conclude this point we will address the argument of the prisoner's attorney, regarding the ideology in the name of which the deeds were done.
There is no doubt, that the desire to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world is a legitimate aspiration, and the struggle to achieve same is a worthy struggle. But that is not the issue facing the Committee. The question is, what is the manner which the prisoner chose for the purpose of his struggle.
For the purpose of discussing this point, the Committee will assume, as the prisoner claims, that his actions were done solely out of ideological motives. The prisoner previously showed that [censored words] he does not shy away from handing over secret information. Therefore, he must show the Committee that he has changed, that he now understands that he made a mistake in the past, that he regrets that mistake, and that he will not repeat his actions. It should be noted, that the prisoner is not expected to change his ideological positions, but to change the path that he has taken to achieve his goals.
The burden in this regards is on the prisoner, to convince the Committee that he does not endanger public safety, it is not up to the State to prove the opposite, as stated in Art. 3 of the Law:
"However, the Committee will not release a prisoner as aforesaid, unless it is convinced, that the prisoner is worthy of release and that his release does not endanger public safety."
Doubt, in this regard, did not work to the prisoner's benefit.
From the opinion it arises, that the prisoner has never expressed regret for his actions, and he continues to announce in his letters, that after he is released he will continue the struggle against the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the same manner as that in which he began.
Therefore, the Committee determines, that there has been no change either in the prisoner's motivation to reveal secret information, or in the fact that he holds such information in his mind.
The Time Factor
The prisoner's attorney argued, that the 16 years that have passed out of the 18 year sentence, constitute a significant factor in the Committee's considerations.
According to him, the longer the prison term lasts, the reasons weaken that relate to public interest and the reasons relating to the prisoner himself grow stronger.
The Committee believes, that the major consideration to be weighed in this regard is not the passage of time, but the danger of the prisoner at present. If, despite the passage of time, the prisoner holds in his mind secret information, and the prisoner is motivated to reveal same, indeed the passage of time constitutes a very small, if not insignificant, factor in the Committee's considerations.
Since the Committee has been convinced, that the prisoner still holds in his mind facts, the revelation of which could endanger public safety, and he is motivated to do so, the time factor in this context is irrelevant.
The Prisoner's Terms of Imprisonment
According to the prisoner's attorney, in the first years of his imprisonment, the prisoner was held in the most extreme conditions, which caused him emotional harm.
In addition, the prisoner did not violate State secrets after he was given the opportunity to mix with other prisoners.
This last argument was already addressed by the District Court in the aforementioned Petition 1876/98. Hon. Judge Banai addressed it as follows:
"I agree with the argument of the Respondent before us, that this cannot be seen as consent or approval on the part of the security services, or on the part of the Respondent, that there is nothing to be feared as the result of the release of the Petitioner and his contacts with unknown people. In light of the fact, that there is still supervision of the Petitioner's actions within the prison and there are still restrictions applied to him with regards to visitors, to telephone calls, etc., indeed there is substance behind the arguments of the Respondent's attorney, since the Petitioner's contacts with one or another prisoner are not the same as contacts which he might have with hostile elements if he is released from prison."
With regards to the terms of imprisonment, there is no doubt, that the terms of the prisoner's imprisonment were extremely harsh, but even this consideration, like other considerations relating to the prisoner's welfare, are overshadowed by public welfare.
The Television Program The Bomb in the Basement
The prisoner's attorney argued, that in the television program The Bomb in the Basement, by journalist Michael Karpin, Karpin claimed that Israel has nuclear weapons, while Mr. Shimon Peres was seated in the studio, listening to the statements and confirming same.
The Committee viewed the said television program and it has a different opinion.
This is a documentary film, in which studio interviews that were held with several people, including Mr. Shimon Peres, were interspersed. There is no doubt in the mind of the Committee, that each of the figures who were interviewed, was interviewed separately from the others, and that the interview segements are separate segements from the rest of the documentary film, and were interspersed according to context. Therefore, one cannot by any means connect the segements of the interview that was held with Mr. Shimon Peres, with the statements that were made by the anchor, Michael Karpin, before or after the interview segements.
Moreover, even if the argument of the prisoner's attorney was correct, and Mr. Shimon Peres had explicitly confirmed that Israel has nuclear weapons, that would not negate the danger posed by the prisoner.
The danger that is posed by the prisoner does not derive from his ability to declare, that Israel has nuclear weapons, rather from the facts and small details that he holds in his mind, with regards to the management of the reactor in Dimona.
The revelation of said details, which are specified in Paragraph 4 including all of the sub-paragraphs, are those which could endanger State security, not necessarily one or another statement about Israel having or not having nuclear weapons.
Generally, the information that was given in the television program The Bomb in the Basement is not similar to the information that the prisoner holds in his mind and the revelation of which the security agencies fear.
[Half page missing, RM]
The prisoner's attorney argued, that the conditional release of the prisoner today would benefit the public, since he could be supervised, and sanctioned in the event that he violates the terms of his release. In the view of the prisoner's attorney, it would be preferrable to release the prisoner gradually, under restrictive conditions, rather than releasing him at once without any conditions, since then he would be able to do whatever he wished.
This argument may hold true for certain prisoners, but it is not appropriate for this prisoner.
For example, a prisoner who is addicted to drugs and has begun a rehabilitation process, and who applies for release in order to join an external rehabilitation program, might be helped by such an argument. Joining in normative life under some form of supervision would be preferrable for him, than being set free without any supervision. The assumption is, that the addict is interested in continuing to be drug-free, and needs help in order not to lose control over the rehabilitation process.
However, this prisoner has the opposite motivation. He does not require supervision to help him stay on the right path, but to prevent him from repeating his actions.
That is not the purpose of supervision. When a person shows motivation to continue committing an offense, the best supervision for him is prison.
The Committee is convinced, that the prisoner holds within himself both the secret information, and the motivation to reveal same.
The Committee believes, that in these circumstances, the interest of protecting public safety and State security, override the interest of rehabilitating the prisoner. The Committee does not believe, that the prisoner can be released with restrictive conditions, when in light of his high motivation to continue revealing the secret information, the proper supervision is prison.
Therefore, the Committee rejects the application.
An order is hereby given, prohibiting the publication of the details of the decision, except for its final result, until after the approval of the security agencies. Afterwards, and subject to said approval, the decision may be publicized.
Given today, 16.2.03, in the presence of both parties.