Vanunu fights to lift curbs on his freedom
By Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem
MAKING a rare foray out of the Jerusalem church where he has sought sanctuary since his release from Israeli prison, Mordechai Vanunu yesterday began legal moves to lift restrictions on his movements.
The freed nuclear whistleblower pleaded with Israel's Government to let him leave the country, saying that a travel ban and prohibition on contact with foreigners infringed his human rights. He made his plea at a press conference at the headquarters of the Association For Civil Rights in Israel, which submitted a petition to Israel's Supreme Court demanding that the restrictions be abolished.
Mr Vanunu said that three followers of a far-Right movement had threatened him in the street this week, calling him a traitor and saying that he should be killed. "There is hate and even danger to my life here. I have no future in the Israeli state," he said, speaking in English rather than Hebrew. "I am free but I don't feel free. I am not free to walk in the street and walk in every part of Israel. This is another proof to me that my place is not in Israel. My future is in Europe or the United States."
Mr Vanunu was released five weeks ago from an 18-year jail sentence for disclosing details of Israel's secret nuclear plant at Dimona.
He has taken up residence at the Cathedral of St George in Jerusalem. He cannot change his address without giving 48 hours' notice, or go within 500 metres of Israel's border crossings. He is also banned from airports and ports, from entering any foreign diplomatic mission, establishing contact with foreigners or participating in internet chat sites.
Asked by Israeli journalists about claims by the security agency Shin Bet that he still had secrets, he insisted that he had nothing more to reveal. He claimed that files and drawings taken from his cell and cited by Israel's security establishent as evidence of his intent to further damage Israel's interests were already published in the 1986 Sunday Times article that led to his capture and imprisonment.
Dan Yakir, the chief legal counsel for the civil rights association, said that Mr Vanunu had paid his dues and now wanted to start a family. "He has no chance to rehabilitate himself in Israeli society while the incitement conducted against him by the security establishment has permeated the Israeli public," he said.
Mr Yakir intends to ask the Supreme Court to cancel the 1945 Emergency Regulations dating back to the British Mandate that allow the state to restrict Mr Vanunu and impose curfews, house demolitions and military censorship on Palestinians across the occupied territories.
"We are asking the Supreme Court to rethink and decide that these regulations are unconstitutional and invalid in light of the establishment of the State of Israel as a democratic state," Mr Yakir said.
A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Jonathan Peled, said: " The whole issue of Vanunu is a balancing act between respecting his rights as someone who has served his punishment and trying to safeguard the national security interests. Hopefully a time will come, sooner better than later, when some of these restrictions will be lifted."
Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Ltd.