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Court Rejects Vanunu Petition Against Security Restrictions

July 26, 2004
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Itim

The High Court of Justice rejected Monday a petition filed by nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu against the restrictions imposed on him by the security services following his release from prison in April. Vanunu was released from prison in April after serving an 18-year term for revealing secrets about Israel's nuclear program to the London Sunday Times.

After the ruling was handed down, Vanunu said the whole world can now see how two-faced the state of Israel is.

"We are saying always that Israel is not a real democracy and today we are seeing it inside the High Court," Vanunu told reporters. "We will find a way to continue to survive and demand the rights to live as best we can."

Vanunu has said he wants to live abroad and insists he has no more state secrets to reveal.

"My country is not Israel. My country is outside of Israel. Israel didn't respect me for 18 years. For 18 years, Israel condemned me as a traitor, as a spy. I don't like Israel, I don't want to live in Israel. I want to be free and to leave Israel," Vanunu said.

Vanunu's attorney, Dan Yakir, said he regretted the High Court ruling, and that the limitation imposed on his client violated basic human rights.

Vanunu said he is considering further legal action. He could request the three-judge Supreme Court panel be expanded to hear the case again, however such appeals are often rejected.

Vanunu - who insists on speaking English - said he would continue to live in St. George's Cathedral, a church not far from Jerusalem's Old City, explaining that he feels more comfortable among Palestinians and foreigners.

Vanunu, who is now a prominent figure in the international anti-nuclear weapons movement, also criticized a recent visit to Israel by Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog. " I am very disappointed by Mr. Baradei because I expected him to go and inspect the Dimona reactor," Vanunu said. "The job of Mr. Baradei is to go and see if what I said ... if it's true.

However, Vanunu did not wait for the court's ruling: the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat published an interview with him Sunday, which would constitute a violation of these restrictions.

Since his release from prison, Vanunu has been forbidden to talk to the foreign press or maintain any contact with foreigners; to travel abroad; to change his address without giving the security services 48 hours notice; or to leave town without giving them 24 hours notice, among other restrictions.

His petition argued that these restrictions unreasonably infringe on his basic human rights, and that there is no security consideration to justify them because he has already told the world everything he knows about Israel's nuclear program. The state argued that the restrictions are necessary because he still has important information that he has indicated he would reveal if given the chance.

In the Al Hayat interview, Vanunu charged that the Dimona nuclear reactor endangers lives throughout the Middle East, because a strong earthquake in the region could crack the reactor and cause radioactive leakage that would result in the death of millions.

He also told the paper that the Jordanian government should start preparing for possible leaks from the reactor, just as Israel recently decided to distribute anti-radiation iodine pills to people who live near the Dimona reactor.

He said that Jordanians living close to the border with Israel should be tested for radiation exposure, claiming that the Hashemite Kingdom is particularly at risk from the reactor because it operates mainly when "the wind blows toward Jordan."

Vanunu said that he does not believe that the United States or European nations will press Israel to reveal the full extent of its nuclear capabilities. He also blasted Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for visiting Israel earlier this month and not putting any pressure on Israel to open its nuclear program to international inspection. "He should have done here what he did in Iraq," the paper quoted him as saying.

Vanunu went on to say that he told the Sunday Times all he knew about Israel's nuclear program, and that the information he had "was enough to conclude that Israel presents a real danger to the entire Middle East."

Vanunu also said he believes Israel has managed to build up its nuclear arsenal during the years in which he was incarcerated.

Al Hayat said that this is the first interview Vanunu has given to a newspaper since his release from an Israeli prison in April.

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