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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2 thoughts on “Re-imprisoned Vanunu now a prisoner of conscience”

  1. I don’t get your argument. He was sentenced to prison in due process. He appealed, and the supreme court heard his case and decided to send him to jail. Should Mr. Vanunnu be above the law? Is he allowed anything? He said he didn’t want to perform his community work in West-Jerusalem. Did you ever hear of another convicted man refusing in such a manner? In the US he would have been held in contempt of the court and spend a little extra time in the slammer, just so he can think this through.

  2. Vanunu is scheduled to return to jail on May 23, 2010, because the ‘justices’ refused his offer to do community service in occupied east Jerusalem as they do not view that side of town to be a part of their community.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,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.Luther continued, “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 are therefore in breach of international law.”On April 30, 2007, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, convicted Vanunu on 14 (out of 21) counts of violating a court order prohibiting him from speaking to foreign journalists in 2004. Vanunu was also convicted for traveling the four miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem when he hoped to attend Christmas Eve mass at the Church of the Nativity, his first Christmas after being released from 18 years in jail (most of it in solitary) on April 21, 2004.On July 2, 2007, Israel sentenced Vanunu to six more months in jail for speaking to foreign media in 2004.On September 23, 2008, the Jerusalem District Court reduced Mordechai Vanunu’s six month jail sentence for speaking with foreign media in 2004, to three months, “In light of (Vanunu’s) ailing health and the absence of claims that his actions put the country’s security in jeopardy”.On December 21, 2009, Uzi Eilam, a former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission told PRESS TV that Vanunu, “served the regime because his revelations helped Tel Aviv intimidate others…I’ve always believed he should be let go. I don’t think he has significant knowledge to reveal (about Dimona) now.”On May 10, 2010, Uzi Even, an Israeli scientist, Tel Aviv University chemistry professor, former worker at Israel’s Dimona reactor and a former member of Israeli parliament spoke on Israeli army radio: “The policy of nuclear ambiguity, by which we fool only ourselves and nobody else, is not good for us any more. It was good, effective and successful for close to 40 years, but over 40 years many things changed and now I am telling you clearly, this policy is no longer in our interest.”The restrictions that have held Vanunu captive come from the Emergency Defense Regulations which were implemented by Britain against Palestinians and Jews after World War II.Attorney Yaccov Shapiro, who later became Israel’s Minister Of Justice, described the Emergency Defense Regulations as “unparalleled in any civilized country: there were no such laws in Nazi Germany.”Israel kidnapped Vanunu in 1986, but Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “No one shall he subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention”, including abduction of a person by agents of one state to another state.Vanunu was charged with and convicted of treason and espionage.Section 99 of the Israeli Penal Code, treason is defined as “an act calculated to assist (an enemy) in time of war…delivering information with the intention that it fall into the hands of the enemy.”Section 113 defines aggravated espionage as “deliver(ing) any secret information without being authorized to do so and with intent to impair the security of the state” and a sub-clause provides for a penalty of seven years for the unauthorized collection, preparation, recording or holding of secret information; if this is done with intent to impair the security of the state and then, the penalty is increased to 15 years.Vanunu served 18 years in jail and has been subjected to 24/7 surveillance ever since 21 April 2004.Frank Barnaby, the Nuclear Physicist, who was hired by the London Sunday Times to interrogate Vanunu, testified at his closed door trial, “I very vigorously cross-examined Vanunu, relentlessly asking the same questions in a number of different ways and at different times…I found Vanunu very straightforward about his motives for violating Israel’s secrecy laws he explained to me that he believed that both the Israeli and the world public had the right to know about the information he passed on. He seemed to me to be acting ideologically.”But, Vanunu was rendered defenseless during that closed door trial when the court ruled that his motivations were not ideological and they refused to allow Vanunu’s own statements regarding his intentions to even be considered in his defense.During my interviews with Vanunu, he informed me that “All the secrets I had were published in 1989 in an important book, by Frank Barnaby, The Invisible Bomb: Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East.”On November 24th, 2006 Vanunu wrote:“My lawyer succeeded to reveal a few very important facts: This General of the Army also was not allowed to see all the secrets that he is required to protect by these restrictions that they claim I know them. So, he gave orders of restrictions without knowing what he is protecting or that he is also following orders blindly, and Mossad Sheen Bet using its authority for just punishing me. He testified that it is not a crime for me to talk with foreigners in general anywhere.He testified that I can speak freely to any Israeli citizens about anything; it is not his concern what I am saying to them. These Israelis can give this information to any foreigners. It was difficult for the Judge to understand why this dichotomy exits between foreigners and Israelis. It means that it is not about secrecy but about something else.”Israel’s statehood was contingent upon upholding the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.Article 19 affirms: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.Article 13 guarantees: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

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