Vanunu convicted of violating order barring foreign contacts
Court convicts nuclear whistleblower of violating injunction prohibiting him from talking to foreign nationals.
Israel's nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was convicted Monday by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court of violating a military order prohibiting him from talking to foreign nationals. He was also convicted of attempting to leave Jerusalem in the direction of Bethlehem.
The court accepted most of the indictment's clauses, save those relating to Vanunu's Internet correspondence with foreign nationals, the evidence for which was rejected by the court as inadmissible.
It appears that most of Vanunu's conversations with foreign citizens were phone conversations, and that that foreigners that he met with were all members of the media.
The court ruled that military injunction on Vanunu was necessary because the defendant "holds within his memory" secret information, the publication of which could jeopardize Israel's security interests.
Vanunu said following his conviction that Israel is still under the British Mandate, and that the law the he was convicted of violating is a Mandate law.
"Perhaps I should turn to the Queen or Tony Blair for justice," he said, adding that the verdict is proof that Israel has nuclear arms.
Attorney Michael Strauss, who represented Vanunu along with attorney Avigdor Feldman, said that "this verdict convicts a person for being in contact with other people - regardless of the content of their conversation - simply for the contact, and this is an intolerable situation in a liberal democracy. This has never happened in the past."
Attorney Dan Eldad of the state prosecution said that the order was approved by nine Supreme Court judges on three separate occasions. "In the situation that arose there was no way to avoid the injunction, and our objective was to clarify that it must be upheld."
Thw sentencing hearing will begin in two weeks. According to estimates, Vanunu will receive a suspended prison sentence.
The sentence could hurt Vanunu's struggle to leave Israel in the face of a travel ban that the government, citing security concerns, has renewed annually.
Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years behind bars in 1986 after giving an unauthorised interview to a British newspaper about his work at Israel's Dimona reactor. The disclosures all but blew away the secrecy around an assumed Israeli atomic arsenal.
Since his release Vanunu has campaigned for Israel to be disarmed while denying Israeli officials' charges that he has more secrets that he could divulge if allowed to emigrate.
"All that I want is to be free, to leave the country," Vanunu, 52, told reporters at the Jerusalem court.