- 13 May 2016
- [International Secretariat]
- Region: ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES／PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
The Israeli authorities should drop the charges handed down two days ago to nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, as well as lifting all of the restrictions still imposed on him, Amnesty International said today. This latest development is illustrative of the pattern of persecution he has faced since he was released from prison 12 years ago after serving an 18-year sentence for disclosing information on Israel’s secret nuclear capacity in 1986.
On 8 May 2016, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court charged Mordechai Vanunu with breaching the ongoing severe and arbitrary restrictions against his rights to freedoms of movement and expression. The charges apparently relate to a meeting he had with two US nationals three years ago; an interview he gave to Israeli broadcaster Channel 2 in September 2015.
If Mordechai Vanunu is convicted and imprisoned under these charges, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and would call for his immediate and unconditional release.
His lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said that the charges are being made in preparation for Vanunu’s latest attempt to challenge his international travel ban, which expired recently but was extended by a temporary court order.
Since his release from prison in 2004, Vanunu and his lawyers have fought without success to end the cruel and unnecessary restrictions which prevent him from leaving Israel, communicating with foreigners – including journalists – without the prior agreement of the authorities, entering or approaching foreign embassies and participating in internet chats, and which require that he notify the police if he moves residence.
In September 2015, Vanunu was put under one week’s house arrest and banned from using the internet and communicating with journalists as a punishment for the interview he gave to Israeli Channel 2. According to Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel, Channel 2 said the broadcast was pre-approved by the military censor but the police asked to see the full unedited interview.
The Israeli government’s contention that Vanunu’s freedom must be so severely curtailed because he poses a threat to national security becomes more and more ludicrous as each year passes. It is widely acknowledged that any information he disclosed to journalists about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme is already in the public domain and is in any case 30 years out of date.
The ongoing restrictions against him are arbitrary and contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interference in the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association and protects individuals from being punished again for the same offence.
Mordechai Vanunu worked as a technician at Israel's nuclear plant. After revealing details of the country’s nuclear arsenal to The Sunday Times he was abducted by Mossad agents in Italy on 30 September 1986 and secretly taken to Israel where he was tried and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. According to nuclear physicist Frank Barnaby, he was motivated by a belief that the Israeli and international public had a right to know about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme; and that “he seemed to be acting ideologically”.
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