Vanunu and Police Struggle at Courthouse Door

A struggle erupted Monday in front of Jerusalem District Court between former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, on trial for alleged espionage and treason, and police escorting him. The tussle arose when Vanunu tried to remove the motorcycle helmet which he has been forced to wear to keep him from communicating with the press.

Upon entering the court and upon his departure, Vanunu tried to take off the helmet to yell something to the press. Police guarding him thwarted him by force, and operated their sirens to drown out his voice.

The trial of Vanunu, charged with leaking detailed plans of the Dimona nuclear facility to The Times of London, began Sunday behind closed doors. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

On Sunday, Vanunu was brought to the courthouse in a blue police van with the windows painted over to prevent his being seen or communicating with reporters. The van entered the court compound Sunday out of sight of the dozens of journalists waiting to get a glimpse of the defendant. On Monday, however, journalists were able to get closer to the van.

Vanunu’s attorney, Avigdor Feldman, told the press Sunday that his first aim would be to have at least part of the trial opened to the public. Feldman contended that the “circumstances under which Vanunu was brought to Israel” negated the admissibility of confessions which were presented to the court, as well as the court’s jurisdiction in the case. Vanunu’s confessions were admitted as evidence on condition that the court would eventually reject Feldman’s argument.

Vanunu’s younger brother, Asher, was not allowed into the courtroom and stood in the corridor of the courthouse, waiting for word of the trial’s proceedings. He said that although the rest of the family would not come to the court, the family stood behind the defendant.

The first prosecution witness called to the stand Sunday was Shimon Savir, head of the police unit investigating serious crimes. Savir reportedly testified on the police interrogation of Vanunu. The last prosecution witness completed his testimony on Monday, and Vanunu was to begin his own testimony Tuesday.

The first stage of the trial is expected to end this week. The defense will then call in experts from abroad to testify on the general dangers and alleged illegality of nuclear weapons.

There were press reports Monday that Vanunu had been nominated for the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize.

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