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Vanunu’s Lawyer Says Israel Imposed Too Harsh a Sentence

May 4, 1988
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The attorney for Mordechai Vanunu, who was sentenced last month to 18 years in prison for leaking information about Israel’s alleged nuclear capabilities, says that the sentence imposed is too harsh and without proportion to the magnitude of the offense.

Avigdor Feldman, a lawyer specializing in civil rights who took over Vanunu’s case after the first lawyer, Amnon Zichroni, resigned, said in an interview here that in his view, the reaction of the Israeli government to the whole case was overblown.

“Israel exaggerated in the way it brought Vanunu to Israel, in accusing him with treason and severe spying,” the 40-year-old Feldman contended.

Vanunu was kidnapped by Israeli agents and accused of spying and aiding the enemy in wartime, charges that he pleaded not guilty to in court.

Feldman admitted that his client breached the law, but he said passing information to a newspaper is not like passing it to an enemy of the state. He also claimed that sentencing the 39-year-old Vanunu to 18 years in prison is almost like sentencing him to life, because a life-in-prison sentence in Israel is equal to a 20-year sentence.

Feldman said that the sentence imposed on Vanunu is being appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court.

Feldman, who is currently a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, has represented a number of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who challenged the legality of actions taken by the Israeli authorities against them, including deportations and land expropriation.

He was sharply critical of what he termed the “zero human rights situation” in the West Bank and Gaza, saying that Israel is in violation of international law as applied to occupied territories in the Geneva Convention.

These violations of international law, Feldman said, include deportations, collective punishment such as the demolition of houses, and expropriation of land for governmental use.

Feldman warned that the denial of human rights to the residents of the territories might spill into Israel proper and have an effect on the human rights of the Arab minority, whose members are citizens of the state of Israel.

“This is like a contagious diseases,” he said. “Once you deny human rights in the territories, it is bound to effect sooner or later Israeli society itself.”

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