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High Court bars journalist Hounam from entering the country

21 July 2004
By Yuval Yoaz, Ha'aretz Correspondent

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday denied British journalist Peter Hounam's appeal to enter the country to interview Mordechai Vanunu, who had revealed classified information on Israel's nuclear program to the journalist.

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz had earlier denied Hounam's entry to Israel and the courts have ruled that his reasons for doing so were valid.

Hounam had petitioned Jerusalem District Court on June 24 to overrule the interior minister's decision to bar him from entering the country.

In the Jerusalem hearing, Judge Yoram Noam was presented with classified information in chambers with only representatives of the prosecution present.

In his petition, Hounam said the decision harmed "Israel's image as a democratic state." The court ruled that Hounam can not use Israeli law in his defense as a foreign citizen. They said Hounam could not demand to be allowed into the country, but could only request it.

Poraz said the information he had received from security officials showed that Hounam had assisted Vanunu to violate the restrictions placed on him when he was release from 18 months in jail.

The minister said he was convinced Hounam could use his entry to expose critical and classified information. The judge ruled that the information he received was sound and was the result of a thorough investigation. The information regarded Hounam's involvement in Vanunu's violations and confirmed suspicions that he may act to expose classified information.

Hounam detained after Vanunu interview

Sixty-year-old Hounam was the Sunday Times journalist who exposed Vanunu's secrets about Israel's nuclear program in 1986, and he was in touch with Vanunu throughout the latter's 18-year prison term, which he recently finished. About a month ago, Hounam was arrested for 24 hours after Israeli journalist Yael Lotan interviewed Vanunu on his behalf. The interview was eventually published in the Sunday Times and aired on the BBC.

Hounam had left Israel after being detained by the Shin Bet internal security service for 24 hours over an interview he conducted with Vanunu.

In a phone conversation from England in late June, Hounam told Ha'aretz an atmosphere of paranoia had taken hold of the Israeli security establishment, which was once again blowing the case out of all proportion. Nevertheless, Hounam said he would not attempt to travel to Israel should he not be granted permission to enter.

Hounam noted that he is the second journalist working for The Sunday Times who has been denied entry to Israel. In April, a journalist of Lebanese descent working for the Times, who in the past had come to Israel a number of times to cover various events, was not permitted to come into the country. Hounam argued that such actions against the newspaper were harmful to the freedom of expression, and created the impression that the Israeli establishment was trying to fight against one of Great Britain's most important papers.

According to Hounam, The Sunday Times has approached the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs and asked that it bring up the issue with representatives of the Israeli government.

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