JERUSALEM (Mar. 27)
Mordechai Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years in prison Sunday by a Jerusalem district court that found him guilty last Thursday of espionage and treason.
The panel of three judges who presided at the year-long trial of the former nuclear technician said their sentence took into account extenuating circumstances. These included the accused’s complete cooperation and the fact he had been held in solitary confinement before and during the trial, and will probably be subject to such treatment in the future.
Considering that each of the counts on which Vanunu was convicted carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, the sentence was considered lenient.
Vanunu, 34, who once worked at the Dimona nuclear facility and later left Israel and converted to the Anglican faith, was found guilty of providing a British newspaper, the Sunday Times of London, with information and photographs that seriously compromised Israel’s security.
The court rejected appeals by the defense to reduce the sentence because Vanunu acted out of ideological motivations, rather than financial gain. The judges replied that ideological motives do not sanctify criminality. They observed that, in fact, ideologically motivated criminals are more dangerous than others.
Vanunu’s sentence will be calculated from Oct. 7, 1986, when he was formally arrested. He was reported missing from London on Sept. 30, 1986. He claims he was lured to Rome, then drugged and kidnapped by Israeli agents who brought him to Israel against his will.