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Vanunu defies ban on speeches

The Washington Times
27 July 2004
By Paul Martin

JERUSALEM — Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu yesterday leveled a broadside against the Jewish state in defiance of a high court ruling banning him from traveling abroad and talking to foreigners.

Speaking to reporters at the country's elegant High Court building, the 49-year-old former nuclear technician insisted that he could speak to whomever he wished.

"This is a very sad day and shameful day," Mr. Vanunu said after the court rejected his petition that he had no more secrets to tell about Israel's main atomic reactor at Dimona and that the travel ban violated his civil rights.

"I want to go abroad and start my life as a free man. If Israel is a democracy, it should allow me to do it," he said.

Mr. Vanunu, 49, was abducted by Israeli agents and convicted of treason in 1986 after discussing his work as a midlevel Dimona technician with the London Sunday Times.

His revelations led independent analysts to conclude that Israel had amassed between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons — a superpower arsenal — and all but blew away the Jewish state's policy of "strategic ambiguity" over its nonconventional capabilities.

A convert to Christianity, Mr. Vanunu has sequestered himself at a Jerusalem church since he was freed April 21.

The three judges had been swayed by evidence, given in secret, of a diary and scrapbook kept by Mr. Vanunu in his prison cell that apparently was discovered upon his departure after serving all of his 17½ year sentence.

Mr. Vanunu told reporters that he did write the scrapbook, but did not think the information would damage Israel's security.

Israeli security officials said they were pleased about the outcome of the court hearing.

They said that if Mr. Vanunu left Israel, he would reveal many more details of the processes and personalities at the desert reactor. Even though his information is 18 years old, Israeli officials fear he still could cause serious damage, a charge he denies.

"It's not revenge as such, but there is a need for the security community to deter any further whistleblowing or betrayal," said Ilan Lerman, a former intelligence colonel.

Most Israelis despise Mr. Vanunu as a traitor. They regard the country's nuclear capability as an insurance policy against numerically superior Middle East foes.


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