04/23/2004, 00.00
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"Christian " and "Traitor" Vanunu released

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Mordechai Vanunu has been released from prison this week, the event receiving prime media coverage in Israel.

The nuclear technician, who also holds a degree in philosophy, was arrested after confirming his personal testimony of an Israeli nuclear arsenal in the Sunday Times. He was arrested by the Israeli secret service on Italian soil, secretly tried and spent 11 years in total isolation.  

Mordechai Vanunu left prison on Apr. 21 after having his 18-year sentence reduced. He had been charged with "high treason and espionage".

His release has come against the opinion of the country's defense minister, who wanted his prison term extended indefinitely on grounds of "administrative detention".

The public prosecutor's office rejected his idea, saying it risked being declared unconstitutional. Notwithstanding, Vanunu is still subject to many restrictions, like not being to leave the country.    

The prohibitions and threats of being arrested again have not stopped Vanunu from talking, as he has spoken freely with the media.

He explains that his charges of high treason and espionage were unjustified since he had not turned over nuclear arms secrets to foreign powers or enemies but simply to the public through statements he made in a famous British weekly magazine.  

Vanunu says he did so for "moral reasons as a Christian and citizen".

He said it was not right for the Israeli's top political and military leaders to make such important decisions, as in the development and deployment of nuclear arms without first consulting Parliament and public opinion. He also said, for the peace of the region and the whole world, Israel should submit itself to international laws against the proliferation of nuclear arms and allow for inspections of its own nuclear facilities.

The  Israeli establishment has been ruthlessness with Vanunu.

According to an agreement reached at the end of the 1960s with the United States, Israel can have nuclear arms as long as it does not officially admit to it, a policy called "nuclear opacity". Even though "everyone knows" that such weapons exist (as evidenced in numerous books, articles and web sites on them), Israel's official "opacity" remains undisturbed.      

Vanunu's revelations have stirred up problems and embarrassment, since his accounts are those of a main player, even if he is a simple technician. The State fears diplomatic complications will ensue due to statements made regarding the technician's arrest on Italian soil. 

Vanunu is a Christian, converting to Anglicanism during his time spent in Australia around 20 years ago. This occurred just after he left his job at the top secret nuclear facility in southern Israel.

His conversion was proof of his "mental instability" for Israeli politicians and military officials. Upon his release from prison, the well known center-left political leader, Shimon Peres (father of the Israeli nuclear program during his years at the Ministry of Defense) made furious remarks about Vanunu's conversion. Peres said it practically equally to political high treason.

The right and left sides of government stand united in their condemnation of Vanunu. Only the far left and right minorities have a different opinion of his personality and actions  

Following his release Vanunu, headed to the Anglican cathedral in Jerusalem, where he celebrated his new found freedom with his supporters, who had mostly come from abroad. He still awaits his full freedom to be granted, including being able to leave the country and live abroad.  (MA)

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