JERUSALEM/ISRAEL: SCIENTIST WHO EXPOSED ISRAEL'S WEAPONS SECRETS MORDECHAI VANUNU SET FOR RELEASED FROM...
- Title: JERUSALEM/ISRAEL: SCIENTIST WHO EXPOSED ISRAEL'S WEAPONS SECRETS MORDECHAI VANUNU SET FOR RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER 18 YEARS IN CAPTIVITY
- Date: 18th April 2004
- Summary: (W4) JERUSALEM (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS OUTSIDE PRISON ASKING FOR VANUNU'S RELEASE (2 SHOTS) WATCHTOWER AT PRISON (W4) JERUSALEM (APRIL 13, 2004) (REUTERS) VANUNU'S ADOPTIVE PARENTS MARY AND NICK EOLOFF, FROM THE UNITED STATES, WALKING INTO HOTEL LOBBY (2 SHOTS) SOUNDBITE (English) MARY EOLOFF, VANUNU'S ADOPTIVE MOTHER, SAYING "He wants to lead a quiet life. He'd like to get married and just be a normal person in society. He would very much like to come to the States. His plan was to just get right on the plane with us, but he didn't have a passport. I don't know how long that's going to take." SOUNDBITE (English) NICK EOLOFF, VANUNU'S ADOPTIVE FATHER, SAYING "He wants his freedoms and he's entitled to them. I mean, he's served his sentence and he should be free from every restriction that there is." (W4) ASHKELON, ISRAEL (FILE) (REUTERS) WS: EXTERIOR OF PRISON VARIOUS OF PRISON SYSTEM COMMITTEE MEETING TO DISCUSS VANUNU'S CASE (5 SHOTS)
- Reuters ID: LVA7Y28B81WG0I0U48JIZNZQQSOK
- Location: JERUSALEM / ASHKELON, DIMONA AND TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
- Country: Israel
- Duration: 00:01:14
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Story Text: Scientist who spilled Israel's nuclear secrets set to be released after 18 years.
With one newspaper article, Mordechai Vanunu blew away Israel's cherished nuclear secrecy.
Now Israeli policy makers fear the 49-year-old whistleblower could emerge from prison with new claims about his work at the Dimona reactor and that fantasy may be as harmful as fact.
In statements made through relatives, Vanunu has said he has nothing to add to his 1986 disclosures to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper - which led analysts to conclude Dimona had produced as many as 200 nuclear bombs and made Israel a military superpower.
A low-level Dimona technician, Vanunu was fired in 1985 and converted to Christianity. After the Sunday Times interview, he was abducted by Mossad and tried as a traitor.
By all accounts, Vanunu is angry and distraught at his treatment and vowed to continue campaigning to expose Israel's non-conventional capabilities.
Israeli security veterans are worried by this mix of ideology and ire.
Some question the government's decision to keep Vanunu in the country, tap his phone and bar his access to the press for a probationary period after his release.
Keen to ward off Middle East foes while avoiding regional arms races, Israel maintains a "strategic ambiguity" over its nuclear programme. The policy also allows it to skirt U.S. bans on supporting countries that proliferate non-conventional arms and thus receive $2.8 billion in annual aid from Washington.
The official Israeli reticence means a ready audience for individuals claiming to have been privy to national secrets.
Military censors are empowered by law to block reports that could be seen as a threat to Israel's security - but only those containing bona-fide information, not invention.
The legality of what Israel can do is also an issue with Vanunu, who according to security sources was so set on having his say that last year that he rejected early release because it would have meant promising not to discuss Dimona in public.
A Justice Ministry source allowed that, even within the generous parameters of emergency law, the case was problematic.
The last convicted Israeli traitor to go free was Marcus Klingberg, who was jailed for 20 years for passing the Soviet Union information about his research on biological and chemical weapons at a secret plant outside Tel Aviv.
Klingberg, 85, moved in with relatives in France last year and avoids the public eye.
By contrast, Vanunu has been disavowed by many family members and is far from retiring.
In prison letters, he has said he wants to emigrate, start a family, and lecture on American history.
"He wants to lead a quiet life. He'd like to get married and just be a normal person in society. He would very much like to come to the States. His plan was to just get right on the plane with us, but he didn't have a passport. I don't know how long that's going to take," said his adoptive mother Mary Eoloff, an American peace activist who legally adopted Vanunu with her husband in a failed attempt to get him U.S. citizenship.
Many believe he will carry psychological scars from his incarceration, 12 years of which were spent in solitary confinement.
"He wants his freedoms and he's entitled to them. I mean, he's served his sentence and he should be free from every restriction that there is," said his adoptive father Nick Eoloff.
"He seems quite disillusioned and demoralised when he knew the whole list of restrictions. He says that he just can't believe that after all the things they've done - all this tortuous time - that they will come back and punish him another punishment," said Vanunu's brother Meir.
"There is no need for a Jewish state. There should be a Palestinian state," Vanunu said in a jailhouse interview in March.
The remarks were sure to stir ire among Israelis battered by a three-and-a-half-year-old Palestinian revolt.
But they also jarred a public that has long stereotyped as hawkish patriots Jews who immigrated from Arab countries, such as Moroccan-born Vanunu.
Critics suggest Vanunu might be tempted to sell his story once outside Israel and maybe even embellish it.
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