Nuclear secret-spiller Vanunu requests exit from Israel, for 8th time
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Nuclear secret-spiller Vanunu requests exit from Israel, for 8th time

Undeterred by numerous refusals, ex-Dimona reactor technician seeks permission to visit wife’s family abroad

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Ex-nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu attending a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem in 2010. Vanunu has been petitioning for years against a warrant preventing him from leaving Israel. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ex-nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu attending a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem in 2010. Vanunu has been petitioning for years against a warrant preventing him from leaving Israel. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former Dimona nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, jailed for 18 years for treason and espionage after leaking Israel’s nuclear secrets to a British newspaper in 1986, has once again petitioned the High Court of Justice to allow him to leave the country.

It is the eighth time Vanunu has made such a request since his release from prison in 2004, the last coming in December 2013.

Unlike in previous petitions, in which Vanunu told the court he wished to permanently move away from the country, this time he has claimed that his intention is only to visit his new wife’s family abroad, his lawyers said.

Under the terms of his release, Vanunu is forbidden from visiting foreign countries, discussing his work at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, leaving his home without advanced notice to authorities or having more than one meeting with a foreign national for longer than 30 minutes.

In 2007, Vanunu was jailed for an additional six months for violating these provisions when he was found traveling towards the West Bank city of Bethlehem, away from his home in Jerusalem.

Judge Yoel Tzur, who sentenced Vanunu in 2007, said, “it appears that the accused displayed total disdain” for his restrictions, but lamented having to hand him the six-month incarceration, “since the accused served a long prison sentence in the past, most of it in solitary confinement.”

But despite Vanunu’s numerous appeals, the court has consistently upheld these restrictions.

In his last petition, Vanunu 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 at the time.

Vanunu, who converted to Christianity in the 1980s, added that he is often subjected to harassment by the Israeli public wherever he is recognized.

“I cannot live here as a convicted spy, a traitor, an enemy and a Christian,” he added.

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 has 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,” he said in 2013.

The High Court of Justice will consider Vanunu’s petition next month, Israel’s Ynetnews website reported.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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