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Mordechai Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu is a political activist who exposed Israel's possession of nuclear weapons. He was kidnapped, tried in secret, and sentenced to a lengthy term in solitary confinement. He remains imprisoned and attempts by non-proliferation activists[?] to have him released still continue.

Between 1976 and 1985, Vanunu was a nuclear technican at Dimona, an Israeli facility for manufacturing nuclear weapons, located in the Negev desert. There he had increasingly grown trou bled about the Israeli nuclear program for which he worked. In 1985, he was laid off from Dimona [1] (http://www.rightlivelihood.se/recip1987_5) and left Israel. He fled to Nepal, converted to Buddhism, and unsuccessfully attempted to defect to the Soviets. In 1986 he travelled to Sydney, Australia, where he converted again, to Christianity. He then, while still in Sydney, met with Peter Hounam, a journalist from the The Sunday Times.

In early September 1986[?], he flew to London with Hounam, and revealed to the Sunday Times his knowledge of the Israeli nuclear program, including photographs he had secretly taken at the Dimona site. On September 30, 1986, a female Mossad agent, pretending to be an American tourist, persuaded Vanunu to fly to Rome with her on a holiday. Once in Rome, Mossad agents kidnapped and drugged him, and returned him to Israel on a freighter. That marked the beginning of what was to be more than a decade of solitary confinement in Israeli prisons.

Shortly after his kidnapping, on October 5, the Times published the information he had revealed. Vanunu was going to be paid at least 100,000 dollars for the information but the payment was never made. Vanunu was then put on trial in Israel on charges of treason and espionage. The trial was held in secret, at the District Court in Jerusalem, before Chief Justice Eliahu Noam[?] and judges Zvi Tal[?] and Shalom Brener[?], and he was permitted no contact with the media[?] -- he managed, however, to reveal to them the date and location of his kidnapping, by means of writing it on the palm of his hand which he showed to the waiting journalists while being lead into the court room one morning.

The Israeli court sentenced him to 18 years imprisonment. The Israeli government kept him in near total isolation for more than 11 years, allegedly afraid that he might reveal more Israeli nuclear secrets. However, many critics argue that Vanunu does not have any information that would pose a real security threat to Israel, and that the Israeli government's real motivation is a desire to avoid political embarrassment for itself and allies such as the United States. Dr. Ray Kidder, a senior American nuclear scientist, has said:

"On the basis of this research and my own professional experience, I am ready to challenge any official assertion that Mr. Vanunu possesses any technical nuclear information not already made public." [2] (http://www.nonviolence.org/vanunu/archive2/jan26)

His last appeal against his conviction, to the Israeli Supreme Court in 1990, failed. The Israeli government refused to release the transcript of the court case until, after the threat of legal action, it finally agreed to let censored extracts be published in Yediot Ahronot, an Israeli newspaper, in late 1999.

The European Parliament has condemned Israel's treatment of Vanunu, and referred to his kidnapping by Mossad agents as a gross violation of Italian sovereignty and international law.

Mordechai Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003.

Vanunu and the story of Israel's Nuclear secrets were the subjects of a BBC Correspondent[?] televison programme, Israeli Nuclear Power Exposed. The programme was broadcast on BBC2 in the UK on March 17 2003.


  • Letters from Solitary (http://www.fighting-fathers.com/Books/Letters%20from%20Solitary%20-%20SE.pdf) - book of letters from Mordechai Vanunu to Rev. David B. Smith of Sydney, Australia, through whom Mordechai converted to Christianity

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