News Release

Israel Trying to Gag Nuclear Whistleblower


Vanunu exposed the Israeli nuclear weapons arsenal in 1986. He was released from prison in April 2004 after serving an 18-year sentence, most of it in solitary confinement. Since then, Israeli authorities have placed numerous restrictions on his activities and attempted to prevent him from speaking to non-Israelis or media. Last week, a Knesset committee hearing on his case was abruptly cancelled and Vanunu was indicted for violating the Israeli government restrictions. The charges include speaking to various media and attempting to attend Christmas Eve Mass in Bethlehem. [The charge sheet is available online.]

Despite the prospect of being taken to prison again, Vanunu is continuing to speak to journalists. Reached yesterday by the Institute for Public Accuracy, Vanunu said: “The charges against me are another total failure of Israeli democracy. They are not ready to admit that I am alive, free and have survived 17 and a half years of barbaric treatment. They are unable to respect my most elementary rights of freedom of speech.”
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Harbury is a noted human rights attorney. She said today: “I was one of several international human rights advocates recently invited to speak to a Knesset committee about the case of Mordechai Vanunu. As we arrived in Jerusalem after long overseas journeys, the presentation was abruptly cancelled and Mr. Vanunu was indicted instead. The basis of the charges? He has been speaking out against nuclear weapons. As the world community grows ever more concerned about the development of weapons of mass destruction by Iran, [North] Korea and potentially even Al Qaeda networks, one would think that such comments would be welcome. Obviously, this is not the case.

“Nearly 20 years ago, Mr. Vanunu was working his way through his university studies by working as a technician at the Dimona nuclear research center in Israel. … Gifted in math and physics, he was fully aware that a nuclear attack or accident would destroy not only the surrounding nations but Israel itself. He traveled to London and gave the information to the Sunday Times for free. In return the Mossad kidnapped him from the streets of Rome, beat and drugged him and returned him to Israel for a secret trial. He spent the next years in prison, eleven and a half in solitary, two of those with the lights on 24 hours a day.

“After serving his full, savage and frankly illegal sentence, he was released last April. However, the security forces placed him under additional restrictions, forbidding him to leave the country or to speak with foreigners on any subject. Courageously, he defied those orders and continued to speak out for the abolition of nuclear weapons. For this he was twice arrested and his files and computer confiscated. Now he is under indictment simply for speaking, although no new secrets were revealed and no security interests were harmed.

“People like Mr. Vanunu and Dr. Martin Luther King will always contribute to human society in priceless and permanent ways. They push us forward, past our comfortable limits. In return we inevitably ‘kill the messenger.’ Isn’t it time to learn from our mistakes and to set Mr. Vanunu free?”

Ellsberg has also just returned from Jerusalem, where he too was to have testified against the restrictions placed on Vanunu. Ellsberg, author of the recent book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, is available for a limited number of interviews.

He said today: “The fact that Israel has a large and growing nuclear arsenal — larger than Britain’s — has been recognized by the rest of the world ever since Mordechai Vanunu revealed it conclusively 19 years ago.

“The notion that any further details he could disclose, 19 years later, could harm Israel’s national security is absurd. Why then, after he has served his full sentence, is the state of Israel invoking British Mandate Emergency Regulations of 1945, pre-dating its own independence, to threaten him with prison for exercising his fundamental human rights to speak to foreigners and foreign journalists?

“Here’s one possible answer. This very month both Israel and the U.S. are making open threats of armed attacks as early as this summer on Iran’s nuclear weapons potential. For Israel to confirm openly Vanunu’s revelations at this particular time — dramatically abandoning 40 years of obfuscation — would attract unfavorable attention to the fact that such threats or attacks against Iran are aimed not at achieving a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East but at prolonging, indefinitely, Israel’s monopoly of nuclear weapons in the region. That is an unstated aim for both the U.S. and Israel, but a less than compelling justification for war. There may lie a reason — but not a legitimate one — for returning Mordechai Vanunu to silence in solitary.”

“What the world needs of this prophet of the nuclear era is not his silence but his freedom to speak and travel, to inspire others to follow his example of truth-telling in their own countries, including ours.”
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Cohen-Joppa is the coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu. Cohen-Joppa was at Ashkelon Prison in April 2004 with 100 others from over a dozen countries on the day of Vanunu’s release, to welcome him to freedom. She will return in mid-April 2005 as part of another international delegation which will hold vigils and protests calling for restrictions on Vanunu to be lifted and for Israel to let him go.
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Audio and video interviews with Vanunu
Audio and video interviews with Vanunu
Audio and video interviews with Vanunu
Audio and video interviews with Vanunu

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167