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Israel court upholds ban on U.K. reporter

By Steve Weizman
Associated Press Writer
July 6, 2004


JERUSALEM -- A local court on Tuesday upheld an order barring British journalist Peter Hounam from Israel because of his part in a television interview with nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu after he was released from prison.

Vanunu, who was freed in April, served an 18-year sentence for espionage and treason for divulging information about Israel's Dimona nuclear plant where he worked as a technician. The details led experts to conclude that Israel had a massive nuclear arms cache.

As a condition of his release, Vanunu was barred from speaking to foreign journalists.

In an attempt to circumvent those restrictions the interview, broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corp. in May, was conducted by an Israeli journalist fronting for Hounam, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Hounam was arrested May 27 by Israel's Shin Bet security service on suspicion of espionage and spent a night in jail before being sent home. The Interior Ministry has barred him indefinitely.

In 1986, Vanunu gave Hounam photographs of the Dimona reactor that were published in The Sunday Times of London. Based on the pictures, experts said Israel had the world's sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The appeal against the Israeli banning order, filed by Hounam and the Sunday Times, argued that Hounam did not breach the conditions imposed upon Vanunu and he was not engaged in gathering material that would endanger Israel's security.
The court upheld the Interior Ministry's contention that Hounam could be a security risk if allowed back into the country.
" The decision not to allow the petitioner to enter Israel is not unreasonable," the ruling said. "There are no grounds for the court to intervene."

© Copyright 2004 Associated Press.


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