This April sees the first anniversary of the release of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistleblower.
Vanunu walked out of Ashkelon prison on 21 April 2004, but he was still not a free man.
In an attempt to silence him, the authorities imposed draconian restrictions on him. Using laws dating from the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, he was denied a passport and may not leave the country for a year (this restriction expires on 21 April 2005). He must obtain official clearance before travelling far from his place of residence at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem; he is prohibited from being within 500 metres of any crossing point from which it is possible to leave the country, and from entering any foreign diplomatic mission. He is also is prohibited from establishing contact with, or exchanging any information in any way with, foreign residents or citizens, or participating in any Internet chat sites.
These restrictions – appeals against which were rejected by the Supreme Court last July – were condemned by Amnesty International UK (AIUK), which demanded that Vanunu should be allowed to exercise his rights of freedom of movement and association and that the limitations on his activities should be reviewed again by the authorities in April.
In November, Vanunu was placed under temporary house arrest after heavily armed security forces burst into St George’s Cathedral and seized papers and a laptop computer from his room. The raid, which coincided with the burial of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, was undertaken because the authorities ‘suspected him of passing information to unauthorised parties’ and ‘suspected him of violating the terms of his release’.
On Christmas Eve, Vanunu, a Christian convert, was arrested on his way to pray at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He was bailed and placed under house arrest for five days.
Despite the harassment, Mordechai Vananu is defiant and refuses to be silenced. AIUK supporters are urged to put pressure on the authorities to secure a lifting of all the restrictions in April1.
1. This pressure failed to secure the lifting of all restrictions.