Vanunu supporters in embassy protest
Six people chained themselves to railings outside the Israeli embassy in central London yesterday in protest against the refusal of the Israeli government to allow the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu to leave the country.
The six - members of the Campaign to Free Vanunu - acted on the 18th anniversary of the day Mr Vanunu was grabbed by members of the Israeli security forces in Rome, after which he was returned to Israel and jailed.
The action came a week before Mr Vanunu is due to be awarded the Lennon Ono peace prize in absentia.
"Vanunu has served his full sentence," said Ernest Rodker, one of the six. "He is not charged with any new offence and yet he is not a free man and he continues to be treated like a criminal. His life is also in danger from far-right groups as shown by many death threats made against him."
The campaigners, all wearing Vanunu masks, called on the Israeli government to halt their "vindictive and vengeful efforts to destroy Mordechai". The Israeli embassy had no comment yesterday. Police cut the protesters from the gate with boltcutters and they were released without charge.
Mr Vanunu, who will be 50 next month, is living in St George's cathedral in Jerusalem after his planned post-release accommodation in an apartment block in Jaffa was exposed in the Israeli media and became the subject of threats.
At St George's he acts as a bell-ringer, something that his supporters say gives him great pleasure as the bells can be heard in the nearby district court where he was jailed for 18 years.
While he has received death threats, he has also had support from a variety of people when he has ventured out. The woman in the local post office had written "good luck" on his transaction sheet, and an elderly Jewish couple approached him in a restaurant and thanked him for his work, according to the latest Vanunu campaign newsletter.
On October 7, his adoptive parents, Nick and Mary Eoloff, an American couple, will receive on his behalf the 2004 Lennon Ono award at a dinner in the United Nations building in New York. The other award this year will go to Seymour Hersh, the New Yorker journalist, who exposed abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
As a technician at the Dimona nuclear plant in Israel from 1976 to 1985, Mr Vanunu discovered that nuclear weapons were being secretly produced.
The following year he gave details of the plant to the Sunday Times, and was lured to Italy by a female Mossad agent, kidnapped and smuggled back to Israel to stand trial.
He was jailed for 18 years, most of which he served in solitary confinement. He was released in April. Mr Vanunu is currently forbidden from leaving the country until at least next April. He would like to visit Britain and the United States, where his adoptive parents live.