Fury as Vanunu trial transcripts are published revealed

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The Independent Online

Heavily edited excerpts from the trial of Mordechai Vanunu, the man who blew the cover on Israel's nuclear programme, were published for the first time yesterday, to the fascination of the nation and the fury of the former prime minister Shimon Peres.

Heavily edited excerpts from the trial of Mordechai Vanunu, the man who blew the cover on Israel's nuclear programme, were published for the first time yesterday, to the fascination of the nation and the fury of the former prime minister Shimon Peres.

Vanunu, who worked at the Dimona nuclear "research centre" in the Negev desert was kidnapped by Mossad officers in Italy and shipped back to Israel after passing on the plant's secrets to The Sunday Times. He is serving an 18-year sentence and was in solitary confinement before his conditions were relaxed last year.

Yesterday Mr Peres, who was premier at the time of the scandal, reacted angrily to the excerpts, published by the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth"The whole Vanunu affair makes my blood boil." he said, "Every country has secret and classified matters that should remain in government files."

The publication of testimony from the trial, which was held in camera in December 1987, was done with the approval of the Israeli authorities, who approved the release of 1,200 pages of text at the newspaper's request. Government censors deleted large chunks of the text on security grounds, reducing parts of it to gibberish. But the fact that the government cleared parts of the hearing will give fresh heart to human rights groups and others who have been campaigning for Vanunu's release.

After The Sunday Times story broke in 1986, Vanunu was lured into leaving Britain in a "honey trap" operation involving a blond Israeli agent known as "Cindy". He flew to Rome where he was captured by Mossad agents, drugged and bundled on to a cargo ship bound for Israel.

The court records show that two Israeli internal security agents, who testified as "Alon" and "Yehudah", met him on a beach on his arrival. Vanunu was tied to a stretcher and taken to Ashkelon prison.

At the prison, where he was given the name "John Krosman" to prevent other prisoners from knowing who he was, Alon and Yehudah set out to win his confidence. One of the two told the trial that Mr Vanunu acted because of his "leftish inclinations, friendships with Arabs, and the mistaken understanding of the Arab side of the Arab-Israeli conflict".

But the former technician, now 44, also spelt out his motive for publicising details of Israel's atomic programme - claims that revealed Israel had built more than 200 nuclear bombs at Dimona, and thus had the sixth largest atomic arsenal in the world.

Israel has never formally admitted to having any, although it has provided hefty hints. "I wanted to confirm what everyone knows," he told the Jerusalem District Court.

Yesterday Vanunu's lawyer seized the fresh bout of publicity as an opportunity to press for his client's release. "He almost went out of his mind, but since being released from solitary confinement his condition has changed drastically," said Avigdor Feldman.

"He's been in prison more than 13 years. The time has come to cut his sentence by a third and release him."

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