Israel: Whistle-blower Vanunu house arrest ruling 'vindictive'

Today’s court decision to keep Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu under house arrest for giving a media interview is vindictive and heavy-handed, Amnesty International said.

The Jerusalem district court turned down his appeal against a week of house arrest imposed yesterday in connection with an interview he gave to Israeli broadcaster Channel 2 on 4 September. The sentence also prohibits him from using the internet or speaking to any journalists.

Vanunu previously spent 18 years in prison, including 11 years in solitary confinement, for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear arsenal to the British newspaper The Sunday Times in 1986. Following that disclosure, agents from Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad abducted him in Italy and held him in prolonged secret detention.

Though Mordechai Vanunu was released in 2004 after serving his sentence, his ordeal continues today. He remains subjected to military orders that impose punitive and unnecessary restrictions, including bans on foreign travel or going near foreign embassies, as well as restrictions on his internet use and communication with foreigners. But, until his arrest this week, he had not been barred from speaking to Israeli journalists. Vanunu’s lawyers say that he did not breach his release conditions – the interview was given prior approval by an Israeli military censor.

Amnesty considers Mordechai Vanunu to be a prisoner of conscience, deprived of his liberty solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Channel 2 is apparently standing fast to the principle of protecting their sources and has refused to give police the unedited footage of their recent interview with Mordechai Vanunu.

Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, said:

“The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu are punitive and vindictive.

“The latest attacks on Vanunu’s freedom are just one more example of the Israeli authorities’ determination to continue to exact retribution and make an example of him for what he did in 1986 and for which he paid the high price of 18 years in prison.

“Punishing him further now does nothing to protect Israel’s national security – any information he disclosed almost three decades ago is by now way past its sell-by date.”
 

Background

Since Mordechai Vanunu’s release from prison in 2004, Israel’s Supreme Court has repeatedly quashed his attempts to be able to exercise his rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Last year, for example, the Supreme Court denied a petition from his lawyers to lift his travel ban so he could participate in an Amnesty International event on whistle-blowers in the UK and attend an event at the UK parliament to which he was invited by 54 members of parliament.

In 2010 he was imprisoned for three months after being convicted of breaching his restrictions by speaking to foreigners and attempting to attend Christmas Mass in Bethlehem.

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