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Nuclear whistleblower restricted from leaving israel

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Last Update: 19/04/2004 22:51
Poraz bans Vanunu from leaving Israel for one year

By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz signed an injunction Monday prohibiting nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu from leaving Israel or getting a passport for one year.

Poraz said he has been persuaded by security officials' contention that if Vanunu were to leave the country, he would damage security interests, Israel Radio reported.

Vanunu is due to be released from an Israeli jail on Wednesday after serving 18 years for revealing details of Israel's previously covert nuclear facility in Dimona to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in October 1986.

For the next six months, the government is also prohibiting Vanunu from discussing his work at the Dimona facility or his trial; approaching Israel's border crossings; approaching United Nations delegations; coming within 100 meters of foreign embassies or consulates; and speaking to non-Israelis, except for close family members. The prohibitions are based on laws regulating emergency situations dating from 1945.

However, other limitations on Vanunu's movements have been minimized. For instance, Vanunu's movements from city to city will not be proscribed within the Dan region, which includes Tel Aviv. He plans to move to Jaffa upon his release from prison, Channel Two reported. For the next six months, Vanunu will be required to report to the police if he wants to leave the jurisdiction in which he resides.

In addition, shaking hands and exchanging greetings with non-Israelis will not be cosidered forbidden contact with foreigners.

Earlier Monday, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz instructed the media not to broadcast a videotape of an interview with nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu that was made by the Prisons Service.

Vanunu has filed a complaint with defense officials against releasing the videotape, saying that he was told that there would be no infringement of his privacy.

Nonetheless, an audio tape of an interview with Vanunu that was made about a month ago, in which Vanunu says he does not believe that his actions constitute treason or espionage, will be broadcast Monday night on Israeli television.

The taped interview, which was conducted in Ashkelon's Shikma Prison by a senior defense establishment official and a Shin Bet representative will be broadcast, has been passed on to a special public relations committee set up recently by government ministries to coordinate Vanunu's release. Someone passed the tape onto television stations Channel 1 and 10, and it will be broadcast Monday evening. Channel 10 also passed the tape onto the Israeli daily newspapers Yedioth Aharonoth and Maariv.

Head of the public relations committee, Rachel Naidik-Ashkenazi, told Haaretz on Monday that she had not passed the tape onto the media, and refused to say who had. She said that officials decided to release the tape "so that the Israeli public can get to know Vanunu."

"I claim that I wanted to tell the world about what was happening," Vanunu is heard saying in the audio recording of the interview.

When asked if it constituted treason, he replied, "I will tell you in my own words: this is not treason, it is informing the world, unlike Israel's policies."

Vanunu said Israel should not have trusted him with sensitive information and that the "bigshot psychologists" from the Shin Bet and the Mossad spy security services should have spotted him as a potential security risk. "You gave information to the wrong man," he is quoted as saying.

Vanunu goes on to slam the state. "There is no need for a Jewish state," he says, adding that a Palestinian state should be established instead where the Jews can also live.

He is also heard complaining that no actions were taken against Israel following the details he revealed on its nuclear program. "Despite everything that was published, nothing has changed. No one came to Israel and made demands [of it]." When asked if that is what he wanted will happen, he responds, "just as they destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, I want the Israeli nuclear reactor destroyed." Israel bombed the Iraqi reactor in 1981.

The former nuclear technician also denies that he is writing a book. "I write letters, I write my political opinions. Is that wrong?" He claims that the information he has on the nuclear reactor in the southern Israeli town of Dimona is not longer relevant. "I've been inside for 20 years, everything has changed ... science and technology have progressed in huge leaps, so what I saw seems to me to be very old. I don't think that the Americans or Europeans need this information. They do not need Vanunu to tell them. If they want information, they will get it ... As for myself, I just want to repeat the things I already said and that were published."

Vanunu was snatched from Rome by the Mossad in 1986 after being lured into a rendezvous by a female agent, smuggled to Israel by yacht, tried behind closed doors and sentenced to 18 years for treason.

Vanunu to be greeted by foreign and local supporters, media fanfare
Both the defense establishment and supporters of Vanunu have begun the countdown to Wednesday, when the nuclear whistle-blower and former employee at Dimona's top-secret atomic facility is scheduled to walk out of the Shikma prison after serving 18 years in jail for his conviction on treason and espionage charges.

A veritable "Vanunu festival" is planned to mark the prisoner's long-awaited release. Peace activists and anti-nuclear campaigners from the United States, Britain, Japan, Ireland, Poland, Hungary and other countries have been arriving in Israel since last week. They will number some 90 individuals, says Rina Moss of the Israeli Committee to Free Mordechai Vanunu, which is coordinating the planned events. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, actress Susannah York, British parliamentarians Jeremy Corbyn and Colin Breed, and Reverend Bruce Kent, the president of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, are among those expected to attend. Playwright Harold Pinter, actress Emma Thompson and London Mayor Ken Livingstone have sent letters of support that will be read during the ceremonies outside the prison.

The 90 foreigners will be joined by a few hundred Israelis, who will hold a solidarity watch outside the prison gates tomorrow, and welcome Vanunu on his release the following day. Local and international television crews will also be present to broadcast live from the scene.

The authorities are also preparing for the release. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's media adviser, Assi Shariv, met Sunday with the spokesmen of several government ministries to coordinate positions and formulate a uniform public line, including a response in the event that Vanunu violates the restrictions imposed on him after his release.

"The decision-makers in Israel don't learn and don't forget a thing," said a senior government official. "If they were to allow Vanunu to do as he has requested and leave Israel, within a few days, the interest in him would die down and not reach the heights we are expecting to see."

Speaking to Haaretz, Mordechai's brother, Meir Vanunu, said: "I am both surprised and not surprised by the Israeli media. All these years, particularly when he was in solitary confinement in his cell, the Israeli media, and the electronic media in particular, showed no interest in him. This is why I have refused until now to be interviewed on television. Now, they are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon."

While Vanunu's supporters are still worried about the possibility of a last-minute trick on the part of the authorities, a security source said that Vanunu would be released on time, in the morning, just like any other prisoner.

On Saturday, Shin Bet security service officials at Ben-Gurion International Airport detained and questioned Sharon Wallace in the presence of her three children, aged 10, 15 and 17, for some three hours. Luca, the youngest of the three children, is the son of Meir Vanunu and the nephew of Mordechai Vanunu.

"They made us undergo a pretty humiliating physical examination," Sharon Wallace, who holds a U.S. passport, told Haaretz Saturday night. "And they accused me of planning to use my children to pass on classified information from Mordechai following his release from prison. I told them that it was insulting to hear empty claims such as these."

A day earlier, Ernest Rodker, coordinator of the British wing of the Campaign to Free Vanunu and for a Nuclear Free Middle East, was detained at the airport for a similar length of time. During his interrogation, the Shin Bet officials asked him if he was carrying anything in his belongings that could be detrimental to Israel. "They held me for hours without explaining to me why," Rodker told Haaretz. "I find it hard to understand this paranoid behavior; it reeks of a police state."

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