Court blow for Israel's nuclear spy

Vanunu risks further jail term for repeating earlier claims to foreign media.

    Vanunu served an 18-year prison sentence for
    spying on Israel [Reuters]

    But those statements appeared to be a repeat of claims that Vanunu made in his original unauthorised 1986 interview with Britain's Sunday Times, for which he was jailed as a traitor for 18 years.

     

    'Atomic arsenal'

     

    The original disclosures all but destroyed any secrecy that remained around an assumed Israeli atomic arsenal.

       

    Since his release Vanunu has campaigned for the disarmament of the Jewish state and he denies claims by Israeli officials 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 magistrates' court in Jerusalem.

       

    The court found him guilty of giving interviews to international media outlets over the past three years, defying a government order on him to limit contacts with foreigners.

       

    A sentencing hearing was set for May 18.

     

    Justice ministry sources said prosecutors want to jail Vanunu again.

     

    His  lawyer said Vanunu would probably appeal against the ruling.

       

    Michel Sfard said: "We should be clear here that Vanunu was convicted for the very act of speaking to non-Israelis, rather than the content of those conversations.

     

    "We do not consider this appropriate for a democracy in the 21st century."

       

    Sfard said he had been told by Israel's interior ministry that the travel ban on Vanunu had been extended by another year.

       

    "I plan to meet with the interior minister on this issue, which we hope will be reconsidered," Sfard said.

       

    'Strategic ambiguity'

     

    Israel neither confirms nor denies having the Middle East's only atomic weapons under a policy of "strategic ambiguity".

            

    Vanunu, a Jewish convert to Christianity, argues that by refusing international inspections Israel inflames regional tensions and risks a "second Holocaust".

     

    He has also said that the Jewish state has no right to exist.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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