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Sharon: No administrative detention for Vanunu

By Yossi Melman, Ha'aretz Correspondent
24/Feb/2004

Mordechai Vanunu will be released from jail in April but "certain supervisory means" will be employed by the state to keep watch over him, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided in a Tuesday evening meeting to discuss Israel's nuclear whistleblower.

The prime minister's decision, which follows suggestions put forward by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, allows the security services to employ "appropriate measures" to supervise Vanunu "in order to prevent additional security violations."

While the specific measures to be taken against Vanunu were not specified, it is likely that he will not be issued a passport and will be prevented from travelling overseas.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and representatives of the security services participated in the meeting.

The security services present included Yehiel Horev's Defense Ministry security unit, the Shin Bet and the Mossad. A representative of the Atomic Energy Committee also attended the meeting.

Sharon rejected Horev's suggestion that Vanunu remain in administrative detention for two months following his release from prison.

The meeting was initially delayed after the attorney general, state attorney and other senior Justice Ministry officials expressed strong reservations on some proposals being aired to drastically limit Vanunu's freedom of movement and speech after 18 years in prison.

Horev, who is in charge of protecting state secrets, wanted harsh limits on Vanunu, saying he could expose more secrets about Israel's nuclear weapons. He had suggested administrative detention for the whistle-blower, who provided secrets to a British newspaper.

Alternatively, Horev proposed that Vanunu be denied a passport, to prevent him from traveling overseas, since this would make it more difficult for the field security department to keep track of him.

Horev sought backing for these proposals from Mazuz and State Attorney Edna Arbel. But Mazuz proposes that before the legal system expresses its views on Horev's proposals, the political leadership should decide if acting against Vanunu is in the state's interests. That is what the Tuesday meeting is about.

Legal sources doubt it will be possible to take any drastic steps against Vanunu, in particular administrative detention, since the High Court of Justice would throw out any such measure. The sources said it "might be possible" to get away with denying him a passport for a limited period."

Vanunu was a junior technician at the Dimona nuclear plant who was convicted of espionage and treason for giving information about the nuclear reactor to the Sunday Times. Israeli agents kidnapped him in Europe and brought him back for a trial where he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which he served in full.

He has told his brothers who visited him in prison that he know no other secrets than he told the newspaper and all he wants is to go to America, where a family adopted him, and start a new life.


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