Whistleblower Vanunu still defiant after yet another jailing

The Israeli nuclear whistleblower who spent 18 years behind bars was released from jail yesterday after serving an additional three months for violating his release terms.

Mordechai Vanunu was a technician at Israel's top-secret nuclear reactor next to the desert town of Dimona. In 1986 he took hundreds of photographs of the interior of the reactor and gave them to The Sunday Times.

Experts concluded from his information and pictures that Israel had hundreds of nuclear bombs. Israel has never admitted that, pursuing an official policy of "ambiguity," hoping to deter potential attackers without detailing a nuclear arsenal.

Through a "honey-trap", Vanunu was abducted by Israeli security agents weeks after the publication of the article and brought to Israel for trial. He was sentenced to 18 years, mostly in solitary confinement. On release in 2004, Vanunu was forbidden from speaking to foreigners, including journalists. He has been arrested an imprisoned several times since for flouting the restrictions. In the latest case, he was jailed three months ago for contacting journalists and other foreigners.

Vanunu is also banned from leaving Israel. Security agencies claim he still has information that could compromise Israel's security. After his release yesterday, Vanunu said, "All this harassing me and arresting me again and again is Israel's problem, not my problem."

Vanunu, 55, has become a hero for anti-nuclear weapons activists. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, though he asked to be dropped from the list of candidates because Shimon Peres, now Israel's President, had received the award in 1994.

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