Vanunu is Back in the Public Eye

Elaborate efforts to keep accused spy Mordechai Vanunu out of the public eye until his trial begins late next month, were foiled Monday by alert reporters and the prisoner’s recalcitrance.

Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona nuclear facility, was transported from prison to the Supreme Court for a closed hearing on his petition to allow publication of certain classified evidence in his case. Reporters who noticed that the courthouse was surrounded by large contingents of police, border police and Justice Ministry security guards, sensed something out of the ordinary.

Their suspicions were confirmed when a police van with white-painted windows pulled up to the rear entrance of the court. Vanunu emerged, his head and face covered by an oversized motorcycle helmet to prevent him having contact with the media. He shook his head violently, dislodging his helmet which he kicked aside. “Enough with these games,” he shouted before surprised police guards hustled him into the court building.

Vanunu, 31, is accused of providing a British newspaper last year with information about Israel’s alleged nuclear capabilities. He was seized abroad and brought to Israel last September 30, although Israel denied at the time any knowledge of his whereabouts.

When he was brought to Jerusalem district court for arraignment on December 28, he flashed a message to the media through the window of the prison van. The message, written on the palm of his hand, indicated he had been kidnapped by Israeli agents in Rome on September 30 and brought to Israel against his will. The incident embarrassed Israeli authorities who took pains to ensure that Vanunu would have no further contact with the press.

Vanunu pleaded not guilty to charges of spying and aiding the enemy in wartime. He has since insisted that certain evidence be made public. His lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, maintained that publication would not compromise national security. Prosecutor Uzi Hasson objected. Supreme Court Justice Gavriel Bach has yet to rule on the matter.

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