WASHINGTON -- March 17 -- On the afternoon of March 17, Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistleblower who spent 18 years in prison for exposing Israel's secret nuclear program, was served with official notice, that he is to be brought to trial for speaking to the international media. Vanunu, receiving sanctuary at St. George's Cathedral in East Jerusalem since his release from prison last April, has been charged with violating the restrictions that were imposed against him upon his release from prison. The restrictions, based on the British Mandate State of Emergency Regulations of 1945, prohibit Vanunu from making any contact with foreign nationals, speaking to the media, leaving Israel, coming within 300 meters of a foreign embassy or international borders and even changing his place of residence without approval from Israeli security agencies. Vanunu is also charged of "attempting to leave the country," for his bid to attend Christmas Eve Mass in Bethlehem, in December 2004. Vanunu is not
being charged with any security breaches or divulging information concerning Israel's nuclear program, rather, simply for the fact that he granted interviews to international media.
The restrictions against Vanunu, which will expire next month but may be renewed indefinitely, were denounced at a press conference held by the Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu yesterday in East Jerusalem. A panel of international lawyers and public figures had come to Israel to lobby for Vanunu's full freedom. Attorney Fredrik Heffermehl (Norway), an expert on international law who was part of the international delegation, said today: "The charges against Vanunu are a red flag to the world media. A man is actually being charged for the "crime" of speaking to reporters."
Rayna Moss, an Israeli with the International Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, stated: "A government with grave security, public safety and social problems to deal with; a government that includes several members who are under investigation on criminal and corruption suspicions; a government that continues to pursue a secret nuclear program that it conceals from its own citizens and from the world - is prosecuting a citizen merely for speaking to the media. This is a shameful attempt to silence Vanunu and a gross violation of his human rights. The restrictions against Vanunu should be revoked immediately, these pathetic charges should be withdrawn and he should be let free."