Hounam: taking legal advice
As nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu fights to be allowed to leave Israel after his release from prison, the UK journalist arrested when he went to interview him is intent on re-entering the country.
Freelance investigative journalist Peter Hounam, who broke the Vanunu story in The Sunday Times in 1986, was arrested last month by Israeli security forces on espionage charges.
He left the country immediately on his release and returned to complete a documentary on Vanunu for independent production company Magnetic North Films, shown on the BBC at the end of last month.
Now Hounam has asked lawyers to find out if he would be turned away or even re-arrested if he arrived at an Israeli airport.
He wants to return because he is concerned that Vanunu is facing death threats from right-wing factions in Israel who regard him as a traitor for telling the world about Israel’s secret nuclear plant at Dimona. Vanunu spent 18 years in prison for treason and espionage before he was released last month.
Vanunu wants to leave Israel but is forbidden to do so under the terms of his release. He claims files and drawings taken from his cell are being cited by Israeli security as his further intent to damage Israel’s interests.
Hounam told Press Gazette from his home in Perthshire: “One of the reasons I stayed for seven weeks in Israel was that I was trying to help with his petition [to leave the country]. By restricting him, it is a flagrant breach of his human rights and the Israelis are quite wrong in maintaining that he still has more secrets to reveal.
“In 1986, we thoroughly debriefed him and he had no secrets left. I gave copies of material we had collected then [to the Israelis] to show that we had done a thorough job. There was no reason to hold back on anything because he was determined all the technical stuff should be in the open.
“This is confirmed by Dr Frank Barnaby, the nuclear weapons expert we employed to debrief him.”
Hounam is hoping that after the “fiasco” of his own arrest – he was quickly released after international media galvanised support for him – the Israeli Government will not wait for a High Court hearing in July on Vanunu’s request but will “get rid of these silly restrictions which are only serving to publicise what they are evading admitting, that they are a very advanced nuclear weapons power”.
Hounam was not deported after his arrest but he left rather than risk a deportation order.
By Jean Morgan