Vanunu Speaks for the First Time
"Those two minutes lasted a long time, and I started thinking about
my life... Started to think about what might happen, about death... I mean,
whether I came out of it alive or dead, wasn't important to them." That
was how Mordechai Vanunu described in his testimony his feelings upon arriving
in Israel. In his testimony he also described his interrogation
by Shin-Bet agents and his life story: from the emigration from Morocco,
through his relations with his family and his studies, to working in Dimona
and his decision to expose Israel's secrets.
"I wanted to confirm what everybody knows... I wanted the matter
to come under orderly supervision... Now Peres can no longer lie to Reagan
and say that we don't have nuclear weapons, now everyone knows," Vanunu
said that he told his mother.
The Journalist Testifies
"It was obvious to me that Vanunu was in danger," testified
British journalist Peter Hounam, who published the Sunday Times expose.
"I asked to have him transferred to a different hotel, but I found
out that he was very nervous and he was talking about 'leaving London and
the country.' He wanted to get out." Hounam testified that Vanunu
was completely open in his talks with the newspaper, and did not try to
Mordechai's brother, Albert Vanunu, was summoned to testify for the
defense. The purpose of the testimony was to prove, that the Mossad knew
long before the publication, that Vanunu was about to give the material
to Sunday Times reporters. In the course of the testimony, Albert spoke
about the meetings he had with representatives of the Mossad. According
to him, the latter told him that someone was trying to convince his brother
to hand over information about the nuclear reactor, and they mentioned
the "British press."
Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres stated during the trial, that in
his view, the publication clearly harmed Israel. "It encouraged several
Arab states to go in different directions, undesirable to the State,"
Peres said. Also questioned on the same subject was Abba Eban, who was
then the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.
"The publication lit a red light in hostile countries... Now [there
is] certainly more supervision, suspicious supervision over Israel's sources
The Testimony of the Shin-Bet Agents
The trial protocol also provides a peek at the operational methods of
the Shin-Bet Interrogations Branch, through the testimonies of "Alon"
and "Yehuda". The two men, who apparently are identified by means
of pseudonyms, obtained Vanunu's version after he arrived in Israel. The
interrogator "Yehuda" said that he spoke with Vanunu about the
motive for revealing the nuclear secrets. "I said to him: 'You were
prepared to sell out the State for £100,000?' And he said to me:
'£100,000? There was just talk about 100,000 dollars.' He said that
he wanted to expose the true face of Israel, an insane state."
From the protocols it arises, that the security staff of the Nuclear
Research Facility in Dimona held three clarification talks with Mordechai
Vanunu, before he ceased working there. The talks addresses information
about Vanunu's meetings with minorities, as well as an interview that he
gave to a student paper. In the third meeting Vanunu told the security
agents: "Don't worry, I intend to leave soon, and then things will
The Issue of Secrecy
In the course of the trial Mordechai Vanunu never stopped fighting for
the hearings to be held in open court. The prosecution strongly opposed
that, fearing that Vanunu would deliberately reveal to the public additional
secret information, and thereby harm State security.
The parties raised various proposals for opening the hearings to the
public. Among other things, the possibility was considered of Vanunu sitting
in a room outside the court room, with the proceedings transferred to him
by means of a closed circuit television. In addition, it was considered
to seat Vanunu behind a transparent curtain. The prosecution opposed this
proposal, fearing that Vanunu would be able to shout out his statements.
Vanunu's lawyer ruled out the possibility that he be seated in another
room, or sit in the courthouse wearing a gag.
Vanunu argued in court: "Up to now I attempted to publicize that
I had been kidnapped. I have nothing more to say, because I was abroad
and I told all of the secrets, and I no longer have any interest in revealing
any secret or anything else. What happened up to now was about the kidnapping."
Vanunu's statements did not convince the Court to open the trial, as
long as Vanunu was seated in the court room and was able to talk freely.
In a Rare Step, the State Granted the Request of
At the request of Yediot Ahronot, the State Attorney's Office
allowed for the first time the publication of more than 1,200 pages of
protocols and testimonies from Vanunu's trial, the espionage trial that
shook Israel and aroused considerable interest around the world.
At the time of the trial the proceedings were held in camera, under
a heavy cloak of secrecy. Representatives of the media not only were banned
from the court room, but were not even allowed to see the defendant. Since
the "hand incident," in which Vanunu exposed the details of his
kidnapping from Rome by writing on his hand and holding it up to a van
window, he was brought to the court in a vehicle with covered windows,
with his head covered by a motorcycle helmet or a blanket. When the Supreme
Court turned down his appeal, it permitted the publication of part of the
verdict, but even then the affair of the "atomic spy" remained
shrouded by secrecy.
The change in the position of the security establishment concerning
his exposure occurred recently and was expressed in removing him from solitary
confinement and placing him in a cell along with another prisoner. In addition,
the media was permitted to take new photographs of Vanunu.
About four months ago Yediot Ahronot, represented by attorney
Tali Lieblich, petitioned the District Court in Jerusalem and requested
permission to publicize the trial protocols. The State, represented by
Adv. Dvora Chen, did not oppose the petition, but did request and obtain
time to consider what would be permitted for publication. Two days ago
the work of screening the protocols was completed, and many of them were
permitted for publication, for the first time in an espionage and treason
trial in Israel.