Vanunu restrictions may soon be lifted

'Atomic spy' willing to commit to not mentioning state secrets if given passport, allowed to leave country.

Vanunu 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Vanunu 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu withdrew a petition he submitted to the High Court of Justice protesting restrictions which, he alleges, have been limiting his rights. Vanunu made the decision Monday after the High Court approved a proposition by his attorney Avigdor Feldman that he agree to refrain from making any statements on the nuclear issue and other sensitive subjects about which he had knowledge. Feldman and the state agreed that after six months, pending a review of his conduct, Vanunu will be able to ask for the restrictions to be lifted and be allowed to travel abroad. According to the terms of his release, Vanunu, 53, is barred from leaving Israel by order of defense officials who argue that he has more state secrets to spill, and is also required to seek official permission for all contacts with foreigners. Talking to reporters, the infamous nuclear spy said, all he was interested in was "freedom," adding he wanted "to walk the streets of New York." Feldman explained to the justices, headed by Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch, that even if Vanunu were to make additional statements on the nuclear reactor at Dimona, he would have no new information to add as all sensitive information he had on Israel's nuclear program had already been revealed. "Vanunu," Feldman said, "is not going to change. He will still be the man who left the reactor and transferred sensitive material over to The Sunday Times. But it is inconceivable that a man be held in Israel for his entire life because of this. The world has anyway lost interest in the subject." After Beinisch noted that the subject was still sensitive, Feldman said his client was willing to commit to not speaking about it anymore. "You can say a lot of things about Vanunu, but you cannot say he is dishonest. Until now he wouldn't commit to refrain from speaking of [Israel's nuclear program], but now he is. He wants to live, to raise a home, a family and children." The state eventually agreed to hold a "test period" after which the restrictions could be reconsidered. The state's representative noted that six months may be too short a time period to determine a change in Vanunu's behavior and that the state will reconsider the restrictions based not only on Vanunu's behavior but a host of other considerations, including the time that had lapsed since he divulged state secrets to the British paper. Vanunu was convicted for treason and espionage after giving the Sunday Times information on Israel's nuclear capabilities. He was nabbed by Mossad agents in Italy and brought to trial in Israel in 1986. He served an 18-year prison sentence, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement, but was re-jailed in 2007 for six months for repeatedly and openly violating the ban on speaking to foreigners without authorization.