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Whistleblower Drops Israeli Citizenship

By JASON KEYSER
Associated Press Writer
Saturday April 3, 2004

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has formally asked to renounce his citizenship as a way to prevent the government from confining him to the country after his release from prison, Israel's Channel Two TV reported Saturday.

On April 21, Vanunu is to be freed from a prison in the southern city of Ashkelon after serving 18 years for treason and espionage. Israel's Mossad spy agency captured him in Europe in 1986 after he disclosed details and photos of Israel's top-secret nuclear plant and the country's reputed nuclear weapons arsenal to The Sunday Times of London.

Israeli officials say Vanunu might still possess information that could harm Israeli security and are taking steps to limit his freedom of movement after his release, possibly confiscating his passport. Vanunu denies having any more secrets to spill.

The TV report said that Vanunu, 50, has sent a letter from prison to the Interior Ministry formally asking to give up his citizenship. A ministry spokeswoman declined to comment.

Vanunu's brother, Meir, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that he hadn't spoken to his brother in several weeks and wasn't aware of the letter.

He said his brother wants to go abroad and live with a Minnesota couple who adopted Vanunu in 1997 thinking that doing so would entitle the man to U.S. citizenship. But only adoptees under age 16 are allowed to receive U.S. citizenship.

'I know that for years he has been trying to renounce his citizenship,' Meir Vanunu said. 'I don't know if he has recently sent a letter to the ministry of interior.'

Vanunu, who was a technician at the nuclear plant in the desert town of Dimona, served more than a decade in solitary confinement after being convicted in an Israeli court.

Vanunu has become a hero of anti-nuclear weapons activists during his years in prison and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Based partly on photographs that Vanunu provided the British newspaper, it is widely believed Israel has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. The CIA recently estimated Israel has 200-400 nuclear weapons.

Israel has an official policy of 'nuclear ambiguity,' saying only that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004


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