Peter Hounam to be released
Kadari and Ilan Goren
After a consultation between Attorney General Meni Mazuz and ISA (Israel's Security Agency, formerly the GSS) officials on this afternoon (Thursday), a decision was reached not to ask the court to remand Sunday Times journalist Peter Hounam. Hounam will meet his attorney, Avigdor Feldman, at 6 pm tonight and will be released two hours later.
Earlier, Feldman issued an appeal to the Jerusalem District Court, against the ISA's (Israel Security Agency, formerly the GSS) decision to prevent Hounam from meeting with an attorney.
Hounam, the journalist who first exposed the Vanunu nuclear expose in the British media 18 years ago, was detained Wednesday evening in Jerusalem and taken in for questioning, apparently on suspicion of committing security offenses. The courts have issued a blanket gag order at the request of the ISA.
"Peter does not know that he has representation, he doesn't know what his rights are", said Michael Sparrad, Hounam's lawyer, to Maariv Online. "The ISA are trying to prepare the way for abusing more rights, and this is an attempt to break him. The ISA are motivated solely by personal revenge against Peter, and nothing else".
Before his arrest, Hounam was on his way to pick up Yael Lotan, a member of the Committee for Vanunu's Release. Meir Vanunu, Mordechai's brother, said that Yael called him, very concerned that Peter had not arrived. "When I reached his hotel, I saw four men in a car with Peter. He waved to us. When I asked a policeman why they arrested him, I was told that it was none of my business".
Meir Vanunu also reported that both the editor of the Sunday Times and the British Embassy in Israel have been updated
The ‘Makor Rishon’ newspaper claimed Thursday morning that as he was being rushed out of the Jerusalem hotel with his escorts’ Hounam passed Donatella Rovera, the Amnesty International representative in Israel, in the lobby, pulled her hair and said: "I've been arrested. Call the Times"!
British diplomatic sources told Maariv Online that the British Foreign Ministry has "expressed concern" over the arrest, and is waiting for clarification from Israel.
Hounam was in Israel with a production crew, to make a documentary on Vanunu's release. Over the last 18 years, he had become very active in the international struggle for Vanunu, and even rented a luxury apartment for the spy upon his departure from jail.
His request to meet with Vanunu was rejected by the security services, because the restrictions on the former prisoner do not allow him to meet with foreign nationals at all and with journalists in particular. Having said that, last Saturday Mordechai Vanunu gave an exclusive interview to Yael Lotan for the BBC. The interview took place in the garden of Saint George's Church, in order to bypass the ban on foreign journalists.
In the interview, Hounam is seen talking to Lotan. The video cassette containing the footage of the entire shoot was confiscated from Hounam at the airport as he left Israel for London. Likewise, his notes and his cellphone were also taken. Nevertheless, the script of the interview managed to find its way to the Sunday Times and is likely to be published in full this coming Sunday.
In response to the arrest, MK Yuli Tamir said "this endangers democracy". Peace Now Secretary, Yariv Oppenheimer, said "on the face of it, Hounam's arrest is an own goal. Let's hope that the arrest is justified and that it's not just a revengeful witch hunt on the part of the Israeli government".
Tal Yemin-Volvovitch, Amir Rappaport, and Ami Ben-David also contributed to this article.