Hounam loses court appeal over Israel ban

Former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu hugs journalist Peter Hounam (above and right) after being freed in April

Investigative journalist Peter Hounam and The Sunday Times have lost their appeal for the journalist to be allowed back into Israel.

Hounam was asked to leave Israel in May, while he was making a documentary, over his connection to Israeli whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. A former nuclear technician, Vanunu was freed in April after spending 18 years in jail for disclosing the existence of the nuclear plant, Dimona, to The Sunday Times, in 1986. Hounam broke the story.

The Minister of the Interior banned the journalist from re-entering Israel on the grounds that he may be about to reveal new information on Israel’s nuclear capability. Jerusalem District Court refused Hounam’s plea to get back to Israel early this month, and last week, the Israeli Supreme Court failed to overturn the decision.

“We had very little time to appeal to the Supreme Court because I wanted to go back to cover the Supreme Court hearing on the restrictions placed on Mordechai,” said Hounam. “But the court didn’t meet in time to make a decision on me. It apologised to me for this but it decided that the Minister of the Interior’s decision should stand.

“I am very disappointed. I really think it is quite ridiculous. Basically they are accusing me of spying in Israel and this business of demonising journalists is more applicable to the Third World than Israel.”

He suspects the Israeli government do not want him talking to Vanunu again. “Maybe if we can get Vanunu out of the country, the whole situation about my ban will change,” he said.

On Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a challenge brought by Vanunu against the restrictions imposed on him when he was released from prison. He has no passport, cannot leave Israel for a year, may only speak to foreigners with permission and is forbidden from conducting media interviews.

Vanunu says he has no nuclear secrets left to reveal and that the restrictions infringe his human rights.

But the Israeli government claims that he is still a security risk.

By Jean Morgan and Dominic Ponsford

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