Nobel Peace Prize Nominee's Freedom of Speech Trial

February 4, 2007
by Eileen fleming 

Annually, for the last twenty years Mordechai Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This year, Vanunu has been nominated by Bishop Desmond Tutu, who received the Nobel Prize in 1984, for his courageous and fearless opposition against the South African apartheid system.      

At the Russian Compound in Jerusalem on February 2, 2007, Vanunu's freedom of speech trial which began on January 25, 2006 was concluded. The court brought 21 charges against him for giving interviews to foreign media in 2004: but the media has been missing in action during this historic trial.

The only journalist present was also the final witness.     Peter Hounam, the London Sunday Times journalist who in 1986 broke the story of Israel's WMD Program utilizing the 60 odd photos Vanunu easily obtained due to the lax security system in the Dimona testified in Vanunu's behalf and was only allowed five minutes to speak with him.

Although Vanunu was only a low tech worker in Israel's WMD facility, he easily obtained the keys to the restricted areas after they had been carelessly left in the shower room. Vanunu was able to shoot two rolls of film in the underground WMD facility without detection.

Although released after 18 years in jail on April 21, 2004, Vanunu has lived under the draconian 1945 British Mandate State of Emergency Regulations, which forbids him from leaving Israel and speaking to media and foreigners.

Vanunu informed this foreigner and reporter in March 2006 that "This administration tells me I am not allowed to speak to foreigners, the Media, and the world. But I do because that is how I prove my true humanity to the world."

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." -Article 19, UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - The Declaration of the establishment of Israel, May 14, 1948

The court brought 21 charges of giving interviews to foreign media against Vanunu. The first and most serious of the charges alleged that Peter Hounam, who himself was arrested in April 2004 and "charged with conducting the first interview upon Vanunu's release by the Israeli secret service, locked in a cell and accused of spying for nuclear secrets.

"Hounam was freed after a diplomatic and legal battle but was declared persona non grata. Hounam, was the last witness called in Vanunu's trial on [February 2, 2007] accused the Israeli police of making mistakes both in arresting him in 2004 and in alleging that he had conducted the Vanunu interview.

"I was only doing my job in arranging the interview with Mordechai," Hounam said after the hearing. "What the police and secret police failed to understand is that to comply with the inhumane restrictions on him, I arranged for the Israeli journalist Mrs Yael Lotan to ask all the questions."

The restrictions against Vanunu are eerily similar to the "banning" that was practiced in South Africa under Apartheid, which also controlled human interaction, place of residence, and type and content of communications.

"The charges against Vanunu are a red flag to the world media. A man is actually being charged for the "crime" of speaking to reporters."-Attorney Fredrik Heffermehl, March 18, 2004

In 2004, Rayna Moss, Israeli peace activist stated: "A government with grave security, public safety and social problems to deal with; a government that includes several members who are under investigation on criminal and corruption suspicions; a government that continues to pursue a secret nuclear program that it conceals from its own citizens and from the world - is prosecuting a citizen merely for speaking to the media. This is a shameful attempt to silence Vanunu and a gross violation of his human rights. The restrictions against Vanunu should be revoked immediately, these pathetic charges should be withdrawn and he should be let free."

Also in 2004, the International Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu issued the following statement:

"Recent developments in Israel - including the planned distribution of purported "anti-radiation" pills to people residing near the Dimona and Nachal Sorek reactors; Israel's refusal to open its nuclear installations to independent international inspection in the course of Mohammad El Baradei's official visit to Israel; and the State's restriction of Mordechai Vanunu even after the completion of his full prison term, indicate, that Israel is determined to continue manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, while hiding its illegal and dangerous acts behind an iron curtain of concealment and intimidation. As hundreds of additional parliamentarians, performers, academics, scientists and activists around the world are daily adding their names to the petition, the International Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu calls on Israel to end its mistreatment of the nuclear whistleblower and let him go free.

In March 2006, Vanunu informed this reporter and foreigner that, "The Dimona is 46 years old; reactors last 25 to 30 years. The Dimona has never been inspected and Israel has never signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty but all the Arab states have...Twenty years ago when I worked there they only produced when the air was blowing towards Jordan ten miles away. No one knows what is happening now. The Israelis have 200 atomic weapons and they accuse the Palestinians and Muslims of terrorism. The world needs to wake up and see the real terrorism is the occupation and the Palestinians have lived under that terror regime for 40 years...It's very sad that Hilary Clinton went to the Jewish Wailing Wall and forgot the real crying wall is the Palestinian wall...the apartheid wall... the wall is not for defense, but to keep this conflict permanent... Israel is only a democracy if you are a Jew."

The verdict in Vanunu's historic freedom of speech trial is expected by April 2007.