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Vanunu Elected University Rector

From The Scotsman
December 15, 2004
By Victoria Mitchell, Chief Reporter, Scottish Press Association

Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was tonight elected rector of a Scottish university.

The 50-year-old was voted by students to become the rector of Glasgow University and follows in the footsteps of William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli and Winnie Mandela. The main role is to act as their spokesperson.

University students claimed that they wanted Vanunu as rector to show that they support basic human rights, and that they oppose weapons of mass destruction.

He spent 18 years in prison after being convicted of espionage and treason for giving photographs and papers of Israel's secret nuclear plant at Dimona to the Sunday Times in the 1980s.

Principal of the University, Sir Muir Russell, said: "The election of Mr Vanunu demonstrates the diverse and international concerns of Glasgow students. It is our hope that he will be able to support the student body in the way that they desire."

Mr Vanunu told the Scottish Press Association last month upon his nomination: "Because of my current situation I will try to do my best for Glasgow University if I am elected rector" and I hope I am elected.

"One day I might be free to leave Israel and then I could come to Scotland and be much more active for the students.

"If I am chosen I will do all I can to help them and to draw international attention to the restrictions in Israel."

The Rector of the University of Glasgow holds a special position, and the office "that of a person elected by the students whose task is to represent them" is found only in the four so-called ’ ancient’ universities of Scotland.

Mr Vanunu will hold office for three years, representing the students in diverse ways, which can include chairing the University Court.

The rector's participation in events is entirely voluntary and depends on their own availability and choice.

The role is principally as spokesperson and representative for student issues.

Mr Vanunu, who has since converted to Christianity, has been living at St George's Anglican Cathedral near Jerusalem's Old City since his release from jail in April this year.

Historically rectors have largely been drawn from politics, including Gladstone, Disraeli, Balfour, Bonar Law, and the French President, Poincaré.

Recent University of Glasgow rectors have included children's entertainer Johnny Ball, pop singer Pat Kane, trade unionist Jimmy Reid, sports commentator Arthur Montford and South African activist Winnie Mandela.

Mordechai Vanunu will replace actor and comedian Greg Hemphill who was elected to the rectorship in 2001.


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