VANUNU RE-ARRESTED BY DOZENS OF ARMED POLICE; LATER RELEASED TO HOUSE ARREST
Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was released from custody that evening, following his arrest in a dramatic and excessive show of force early Thursday morning, November 11, at St. George's Cathedral in East Jerusalem. He has been punished yet again, and placed under house arrest for seven days. His cell phones were returned to him, but he is still waiting for his laptop computers to be returned.
Vanunu was warned that he is still bound by the severe restrictions placed on him by Israeli authorities when he was released on April 21 after serving his complete 18 year sentence. Issues regarding his re-arrest are under investigation, and no formal charges have been filed. However, Vanunu was told that he may face charges for interviews that he has given to foreign media.
When Vanunu was released from custody, he told the press, "Once, twice, three times - how many times will I be punished for the same act?" Thursday morning, at least 30 armed police stormed the compound of St. George's Cathedral, terrifying the clergy as well as pilgrims and guests having breakfast. The force consisted of special unit officers on motorcycles as well as additional police in other vehicles.
A reporter for Israel's Channel 2 evening news called the raid "unnecessary and embarrassing" and wondered aloud why the police hadn't simply asked Vanunu to report for questioning.
By the time he was released from detention, the general opinion in the Israeli media was that, once again, Israel's security services had gone out of their way to make Vanunu headline news. After his release Vanunu told friends that he was well and glad to be back at St. George's, but that as long as he is kept in Israel against his will, he remains a prisoner. He thanked his supporters for their immediate response to his arrest.
Daniel Ellsberg, author of the book "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers," said: "The only secret Mordechai Vanunu has left to tell the world is the one he revealed on the day of his release from 18 years in prison, April 21, 2004: 'I am a symbol of the will of freedom, that the human spirit is free. You cannot destroy the human spirit.' That is indeed the most dangerous secret in the eyes not only of Israel but of every state that withholds vital information from its own citizens, including the U.S. and U.K. Israel should let the foremost prophet of the nuclear age go forth to be honored throughout the world -- and we call on them to do so -- but even if it returns him instead to his 6-by-9 foot cell, Mordechai Vanunu will remain the most free man on earth."
Vanunu's adoptive American parents, Nick and Mary Eoloff, said after learning of their son's re-arrest: "We are horrified that today armed Israeli special police forces entered St. George's Cathedral compound in order to kidnap Mordechai Vanunu for the second time. It is further proof that the security forces have no respect for an individual's human rights and dignity nor respect for a religious site which is a sacred place of sanctuary. Mordechai has always acted from a moral belief that nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal and that all nations should begin the process of their disarmament."
In 1986, Vanunu was kidnapped, taken back to Israel for a secret trial and convicted on charges of treason and espionage after revealing information about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal to the London Sunday Times. The restrictions include not being allowed to leave Israel and not being allowed to talk to foreign press, among other things restricting his freedom of movement and speech.
Supporters around the world continue to work for Vanunu's total freedom, and join him in continuing to call for nuclear abolition in the Middle East and around the world. Fifteen British supporters vigiled at the Israeli Embassy in London on November 11 to immediately protest Vanunu's arrest.
Felice Cohen-Joppa, coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu said: "It is an outrage that Israel has re-arrested nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu only six months after his release from prison. The unjust and severe restrictions that have forced Mordechai Vanunu to remain in Israel following his release last April, and intend to muzzle his voice for nuclear disarmament, are grave violations of his human and civil rights. After 18 years in prison, he has no secrets to reveal. Israel must stop punishing this man who has already suffered so much for letting the world know about Israel's nuclear arsenal."
Rayna Moss, Israeli coordinator for the International Campaign to Free Vanunu, said: "The attempt to silence Mordechai Vanunu on this of all days, is an attempt to bury Israel's secret nuclear arsenal together with Yasser Arafat. While the world media and attention are focused on the burial of the Palestinian leader, the Israeli government is attempting to disappear the nuclear whistleblower, whose only crime is revealing the terrible truth that Israel is trying to hide: weapons of mass destruction that are concealed from Israeli citizens and from the world."