Mordechai Vanunu
Photo: Reuters

Vanunu convicted of violating military order

Court convicts nuclear whistleblower of violating order prohibiting him from talking to foreign journalists

Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was convicted Monday by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court of 15 violations of a military order prohibiting him from talking to foreign journalists and leaving Israel.


The original indictment included 22 different violations of the order, but during the trial the State Prosecutor's Office submitted an amended indictment, and he was eventually charged with 19 violations and was acquitted of four.


According to the indictment, Vanunu held conversations with foreign journalists and provided them with news and details on Israel's nuclear reactor.


He was acquitted of speaking to foreign nationals on the internet and via video and voice chats.


The verdict could mean fresh jail time for Vanunu and hurt his fight to leave Israel in the face of a travel ban that the government, citing security concerns, has renewed annually.


Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years behind bars in 1986 after giving an unauthorised interview to a British newspaper about his work at Israel's Dimona reactor. The disclosures all but blew away the secrecy around an assumed Israeli atomic arsenal.


Since his release Vanunu has campaigned for the Jewish state to be disarmed while denying Israeli officials' charges that he has more secrets that he could divulge if allowed to emigrate.


"All that I want is to be free, to leave the country," Vanunu, 52, told reporters at Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.


A sentencing hearing was set for May 18. Justice Ministry sources said prosecutors could seek to jail Vanunu anew. Vanunu's lawyer said his client would likely appeal the ruling.


"We should be clear here that Vanunu was convicted for the very act of speaking to non-Israelis, rather than the content of those conversations," attorney Michel Sfard said. "We do not consider this appropriate for a democracy in the 21st century."


Sfard said he had been told by Israel's Interior Ministry that the travel ban on Vanunu had been extended by another year, to April 2008, when it will again come up for review.


"I plan to meet with the interior minister on this issue, which we hope will be reconsidered," Sfard said.


פרסום ראשון: 04.30.07, 13:04
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