Vanunu Pleads Not Guilty to Charges As His Trial Opens Officially

Mordechai Vanunu, the former technician at the Dimona nuclear facility, pleaded not guilty to charges of treason, grave espionage and passing information without authorization, as his trial opened officially in Jerusalem District Court Sunday.

“He denied the facts in the charge sheet,” Vanunu’s attorney, Aharon Zichroni, told reporters after a 90-minute closed session. The trial will resume in six weeks. If convicted, Vanunu could face life imprisonment.

The trial will be held in camera and only the sentence will be made public if the verdict is guilty. The tightest security was maintained to seclude Vanunu from the media as he was driven to court at 7:30 a.m. local time Sunday. The authorities took extreme measures to avoid a repetition of the incident of December 21 when Vanunu was brought to court to be remanded in custody for the duration of the trial.

At that time he managed to flash a message to the media, printed on the palm of his hand, alleging that he was kidnapped in Rome on September 30 by Israeli agents.

This Sunday morning, the windows of the prison van were painted opaque white and a blanket was hung between the driver’s compartment and the rear of the van to prevent anyone from catching a glimpse of the prisoner.

A person, presumably Vanunu, was taken from the rear of the van with a sack over his head and his body concealed partially by an umbrella held by a guard.

Vanunu is accused of passing information to a British newspaper alleging that Israel has been building an arsenal of nuclear weapons for 20 years.

An additional charge may be pressed against him for attempting to communicate with the press last week. Police are investigating the incident to determine whether there are grounds for an indictment.

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