Parole Denied Again
Vanunu's release date is April 22, 2004
After months of repeated delays, a closed-door hearing regarding parole for Mordechai Vanunu was finally held on January 21, 2003, before the Parole Committee at Beersheba District Court. Parole was initially rejected in May 1998, and subsequent requests for a new hearing had since been denied. Most Israeli prisoners are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence. But the nuclear whistleblower, sentenced to 18 years in prison, has already spent nearly 17 years behind bars, the first 11-1/2 years in solitary confinement.
Three weeks later, on February 16, the Committee again denied the prisoner parole, dashing the thin hope he would walk free before the expiration of his sentence in April, 2004. Several arguments for his early release were rejected, and public portions of the committee's censored decision reveal that they relied heavily on an opinion submitted by military security, parts of which were even kept secret from Vanunu and his attorney.
One element of Vanunu's appeal concerned revelations about Israel's nuclear arsenal confirmed by former Prime Minister Shimon Peres during a 2001 Israeli television documentary, "The Bomb in the Basement." But the committee insisted that "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 at Dimona... the revelation of which the security agencies fear."
The committee reaffirmed the government's belief that "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." They referred to a document given to the parole committee in May 1998, stating that Vanunu "believes in the justice of his actions, expresses no regret or guilt and declares... he will continue to reveal the information he possesses." And although the court recognized that "the desire to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world is a legitimate aspiration," it held that Vanunu chose the wrong way to go about it.
Vanunu remains steadfast in his belief that what he did was right, as do thousands of supporters in Israel and around the world.
Coincidentally, the same day that he was denied parole - and the day after millions of people around the world demonstrated for peace - Yoko Ono took out a full page ad in the Sunday New York Times. Her poem included respect and thanks to three individuals - Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mordechai Vanunu.
In spite of his parole denial, Mordechai is in good spirits, very much looking forward to his release and the end of his long ordeal. The April 22, 2004 release date was recently confirmed in writing by the director of public affairs of the Israeli Embassy in London, after a meeting with Ernest Rodker and Bruce Kent of the U.K Campaign to Free Vanunu.