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Israel's Vanunu tried for breaking restrictions

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan
April 12, 2005

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu is on trial accused of violating terms of his release from prison by talking to foreign reporters and trying to visit the West Bank.

Vanunu, 50, was released last April after serving an 18-year term for spilling secrets about the Dimona nuclearreactor to a British newspaper. The revelations of the former technician led experts to conclude that Israel had nuclear weapons.

"It is shameful to Israeli democracy to bring me back to court after all those years in prison," Vanunu told Reuters outside the Jerusalem court on Tuesday. "This case is proving to the world that Israel is not a real democracy."

"As a human being, I have the right to express my political views and my ideas. I have no more secrets," said Vanunu.

Under the terms of Vanunu's release, he was forbidden from speaking to foreign media and had to remain inside Israel. If convicted of violating the bans, he could be jailed for up to two years.

Vanunu did not enter any plea in court as his lawyer challenged the validity of the case. The next hearing is due on May 19.

The bans are due to be reviewed this month. Vanunu's lawyer said he had been given an official letter stating that the government intended to renew the restrictions and requesting a response.

An indictment filed in a Jerusalem court last month charged Vanunu with 21 counts of violating the restrictions.

Listing interviews in the U.S., British, Australian and French media, the indictment quoted Vanunu as claiming that Israel had assembled hydrogen and neutron bombs at Dimona and was annually producing 40 kilos (88 lb) of plutonium, enough to make 10 atomic bombs, at the facility.

Last November, police arrested Vanunu, a convert to Christianity, at the Jerusalem church where he has lived since he left jail and brought him to court on suspicion of having spilled more state secrets to the foreign press.

He was later released to house arrest and has remained under constant surveillance by Israeli security services.

The indictment also charged him with violating a ban on travel overseas or to the Palestinian territories .Vanunu was briefly detained by Israeli police after he tried to visit the West Bank town of Bethlehem last Christmas.

Vanunu was abducted in Rome by agents of Israel's Mossad intelligence service and jailed in 1986 fordiscussing his work at the Dimona reactor with the Sunday Times.

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