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Israeli Nuclear Whistleblower Returned to Solitary Confinement
LONDON - Amnesty International has accused the Israeli authorities of
subjecting jailed nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment by holding him in solitary confinement.
The 56-year-old, who spent 18 years in prison for revealing details
of the country's nuclear arsenal to a UK newspaper in 1986, was sent
back to jail for three months on 23 May on charges of contact with a
foreign national, and almost immediately placed in solitary
confinement. Amnesty International is calling for his immediate and
“Mordechai Vanunu should not be in prison at all, let alone be held
in solitary confinement in a unit intended for violent criminals,” said
Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East
“He suffered immensely when he was held in solitary confinement for
11 years after his imprisonment in 1986 and to return him to such
conditions now is nothing less than cruel, inhuman or degrading.”
Vanunu is held in Ayalon Prison in central Israel. His lawyer
revealed to Amnesty International that he has been placed in an
isolated cell, ostensibly to protect him from other prisoners.
For years, Vanunu has been portrayed by some Israeli media and
politicians as a traitor and an enemy of the state for disclosing
Israeli efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and he says he has received
“Mordechai Vanunu is a prisoner of conscience. The prison
authorities might claim that he has been put in isolation to protect
him from the risk of attack by other inmates, but if the Israeli
government is really concerned for his safety it should release him
without delay,” said Malcolm Smart. “His re-imprisonment is both harsh
Vanunu, a former technician at Israel's nuclear plant near the
southern town of Dimona, revealed details of the country's nuclear
arsenal to UK newspaper The Sunday Times.
Subsequently, he was abducted by Mossad agents in Italy on 30
September 1986 and secretly taken to Israel, where he was tried and
sentenced to a prison term of 18 years, the first 11 years of which he
spent in solitary confinement.
Since his release in 2004, the Israeli authorities have subjected
Vanunu to police supervision under the terms of a draconian military
order, which is renewed every six months.
According to the order, he is banned from communicating with
foreigners, including journalists. He cannot leave the country and is
forbidden from approaching foreign embassies. He must also inform the
authorities if he wishes to change his address.
“The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu arbitrarily limit his rights
to freedom of movement, expression and association and are therefore in
breach of international law. They should be lifted and he should be
allowed to start his life again as a free man,” said Malcolm Smart.
Mordechai Vanunu’s brother, Meir Vanunu, told Amnesty International
on 17 June 2010: "It is very traumatic for Mordechai to be put again in
solitary confinement and subjected to harassment. These are the same
conditions he was kept under previously for 18 years and there is no
justification for it after 24 years of suffering. “
"We fear for the impact this will have on his health. Now is the
time for Mordechai's true freedom – he should be allowed to travel and
leave Israel. He should never have been put in this situation in the
The harsh conditions of the dangerous criminals unit in Ayalon
Prison mean Vanunu can only leave his cell for one hour every day to
walk in the prison courtyard.
He cannot currently make telephone calls from the prison unless he
submits information about the person he wishes to call to the prison
authorities – something he refuses to do on principle. As a result, he
has had no contact with friends or family since the beginning of his
His lawyer Michael Sfard was able to visit him and told Amnesty
International: “Mordechai Vanunu is suffering from isolation. He should
not be made to pay a price because of the enmity of others towards him."
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.