Mordechai Vanunu — who 30 years ago revealed Israel’s nuclear secrets to a British newspaper — was indicted Sunday over an interview that he gave to an Israeli television station last year, in violation of the terms of his release from jail.
Vanunu was indicted at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court both for speaking to Channel 2 TV and for failing to report to police that he was moving home, Channel 2 reported. He had moved to a different apartment in the same building.
Vanunu also met with two US citizens at the Jerusalem Hotel in East Jerusalem in breach of his terms of release, according to Channel 2.
In a wide-ranging interview in September, Vanunu spoke about leaking Israel’s nuclear secrets to The Sunday Times in 1986, and of being entrapped by the Mossad and brought back to the country to be jailed.
Days later, Vanunu was questioned by police at the request of the Shin Bet security service. A Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge then ordered him to a week of house arrest, and ordered him not to use the internet or talk to journalists.
Channel 2 said that while all the material broadcast in the interview had been approved by Israel’s military censor, the police had asked for the full, unedited footage of the interview, apparently because it was suspected that Vanunu discussed matters he was barred from talking about.
A former technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, Vanunu was released from jail in 2004 after 18 years, but the conditions of his parole included significant limitations on his freedom of movement and banned him from giving interviews on various topics.
The September interview marked a departure from Israel’s decades of official nuclear secrecy, in that Israel’s military censors permitted Vanunu to speak on prime-time Israeli television about the nuclear program.
A Dimona employee from 1976 to 1985, Vanunu revealed overwhelming evidence of Israel’s nuclear program to The Sunday Times, including dozens of photographs, enabling nuclear experts to conclude that Israel had produced at least 100 nuclear warheads.
Vanunu, now 60 and barred from leaving the country, was interviewed in a friend’s apartment in Tel Aviv. He described a gradual process by which he decided, over his years of working at Dimona, that he had an obligation to reveal “to the citizens of Israel and the Middle East and the world” the nature of what he called “the powder keg” at Dimona — “the quantities, the numbers, the types.
“I saw what they were producing and its significance,” he said, calling Israel’s nuclear program “a failure” that he had “exposed” — in an apparent critique of Israel’s entire nuclear strategy.
To this day, Israel has never acknowledged that it has a nuclear arsenal, instead maintaining a policy of “nuclear ambiguity” while vowing that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East.