Ex-Dimona nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, convicted of treason and espionage for leaking Israel’s nuclear secrets to a British newspaper in 1986, asked Israel’s High Court on Wednesday to ease restrictions keeping him from leaving the country.
Vanunu, who served 18 years in prison after being convicted in 1988, told the High Court he found life in Israel too difficult to endure, and called on it to lift the warrant banning him from leaving the country or contacting foreigners.
“I don’t want to live in Israel,” Vanunu, who has said he won’t speak Hebrew until he is allowed to leave the country, told the court in English.
“I cannot live here as a convicted spy, a traitor, an enemy and a Christian,” he said.
Vanunu, who converted to Christianity in the 1980s, added that he is often subjected to harassment by the Israeli public wherever he is recognized.
He said that when he goes to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, people on the street call him a traitor and an enemy, and that strangers have tried to beat him up.
Blaming the media for wrecking his public image, Vanunu said he didn’t see a future for himself in Israel.
In 1986, Vanunu leaked details of Israel’s reported military nuclear program to The Sunday Times, blowing the cover off Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.
Vanunu compared his past actions to those of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“Snowden is the best example for what I did 25 years ago — when the government breaks the law and tramples on human rights, people talk. That’s what he did, he speaks for everyone, and that’s what I did — I spoke for everyone.”
Vanunu is prohibited from visiting foreign territories, including the West Bank and embassies within Israel, and can only meet with foreign nationals after securing permission from security forces.
Vanunu’s attorney demanded Thursday that the state present its justifications for restricting the former nuclear spy’s movements since his release from prison in 2004.
The court is set to make a decision on the matter in the coming days.