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Vanunu israeli nuclear whistleblower is released

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Vanunu, Israeli Nuclear Whistleblower, Is Released (Update3)
April 21 (Bloomberg) -- Mordechai Vanunu, who was convicted of treason for shedding light on Israel's secret nuclear weapons program, walked out of prison after 18 years, saying he was treated brutally behind bars and remains proud of his actions.

Vanunu, 49, raised his hands in victory signs as he left Shikma prison in Ashkelon, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Tel Aviv. Wearing a white checkered shirt and black tie, Vanunu was cheered by hundreds of supporters from Israel and overseas who stood outside the maximum-security facility.

``To all those who called me a traitor, I am saying I am proud and happy to do what I did,'' Vanunu told reporters and camera crews who broadcast his remarks live around the world. ``You didn't succeed in breaking me. You didn't succeed in making me crazy. I am ready to start my new life.''

Vanunu, who spent 12 years in solitary confinement, was convicted of treason at a closed trial in 1986 for giving the London-based Sunday Times details of Israel's work on nuclear arms. The material included photographs of the Dimona nuclear plant where he worked.

Guards didn't stop Vanunu's impromptu press conference, which took place inside the prison gates and appeared to be an immediate violation of government terms for his release. The Interior Ministry yesterday issued a series of guidelines that said Vanunu wouldn't be able to communicate with foreigners or leave the country and will be subject to close surveillance.

Vanunu, who converted to Christianity in the 1980s said there is no reason for a Jewish state and said Israel needs to resolve its problems with the Palestinians. He called on the government to open the Dimona plant to international inspection.

``Israel doesn't need nuclear arms, especially now that all the Middle East is free from nuclear weapons,'' he said.

He called his conditions in prison were ``cruel and barbaric,'' blaming Israel's Mossad and Shin-Bet security services.

The Justice Ministry said Vanunu's contact with the outside world must be restricted because he is still capable of causing ``serious damage to state security.'' He ``possesses state secrets, several of which he has yet to reveal and which have yet to be published,'' it said.

Weapons Program

Israel, which hasn't signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, has never confirmed it has a weapons program.

Vanunu, who will live in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, according to daily Haaretz, will have to report his movements to police and not meet ``foreign residents and citizens without advance permission,'' the ministry said. Today, Vanunu talked of the possibility of a future press conference and said he wanted to leave Israel and live in the United States.

Renewal of the restrictions will be considered toward the end of the one-year ban, it said. ``As Attorney General Meni Mazuz stressed to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the keys are in Vanunu's hands,'' the ministry said.

``They're putting him in a larger prison and threatening his life,'' Vanunu's brother, Meir, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. Israeli secret services and media have mounted ``a very hostile campaign'' and ``they continue to portray him as a very dangerous man for the country,'' he said.

Vanunu, who was in London to give the Sunday Times the nuclear secrets in 1986, was persuaded to go to Rome in a classic secret service ``honey trap'' by a woman posing as a U.S. tourist. Once in Italy, Israeli agents drugged him and spirited him out of the country by sea to face trial.

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