Re-imprisoned Vanunu now a prisoner of conscience

Amnesty International is to declare Sunday Times nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu a prisoner of conscience after he was sent back to jail for three months by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Vanunu was released in April 2004 after serving an 18-year sentence for treason and espionage after he revealed details of Israel’s secret and illegal nuclear weapons programme to The Sunday Times and journalist Peter Hounam.

Since then he has been subject to severe restrictions preventing him from leaving the country and talking to foreigners.

Hounam obtained the first interview with Vanunu on his release six years ago for the Sunday Times and the BBC by using an Israeli journalist as an intermediary.

Some 22 new indictments were filed against Vanunu. One of which stated that he had told Sky TV’s Adam Boulton that he was deliberately violating the government restrictions imposed on him in order to make his case.

Hounam told Press Gazette at the time: “This is another example of the Israeli authorities trying to persecute this guy. There’s a particular senior official in the ministry of defence who’s been conducting a sort of vendetta against Vanunu for many years.

“We made sure an Israeli journalist did the interview with Vanunu and I don’t know why that is seen as an infringement of the regulations.”

After a long court battle Vanunu was found guilty and sentenced to community service. According to The Times, the decision to jail him again stems from the fact that there was no community service scheme in Arab east Jerusalem, the only part of Israel where Vanunu says he feels safe.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East, said: ‘If Mordechai Vanunu is imprisoned again, Amnesty International will declare him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

‘The ongoing restrictions placed on Mordechai Vanunu have meant that he has been unable to move to the USA to live with his adopted family, placing a huge strain on his mental and physical health.

‘They are not parole restrictions since he served his full 18-year term. They arbitrarily limit his rights to freedom of movement, expression and association and are therefore in breach of international law.’

Vanunu, 56, told Amnesty: “Whether I go to prison or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I feel like I’m in prison already, trapped in Israel.”

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