Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו; born 14 October 1954), also known as John Crossman, is an Israeli former nuclear technician and peace activist who, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy by a Mossad agent, where he was drugged and abducted by Israeli intelligence agents. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted in a trial that was held behind closed doors.
Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement. Released from prison in 2004, he became subject to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement. Since then he has been arrested several times for violations of those restrictions, including giving various interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. He says he suffered “cruel and barbaric treatment” at the hands of Israeli authorities while imprisoned, and suggests that his treatment would have been different if he had not converted to Christianity from Judaism.
In 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to six months in prison for violating terms of his parole. The sentence was considered unusual even by the prosecution who expected a suspended sentence. In response, Amnesty International issued a press release on 2 July 2007, stating that “The organisation considers Mordechai Vanunu to be a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.”In May 2010, Vanunu was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail on a charge that he met foreigners in violation of conditions of his 2004 release from jail.
Vanunu has been characterized internationally as a whistleblower and by Israel as a traitor. Daniel Ellsberg has referred to him as “the preeminent hero of the nuclear era”.
Vanunu was born in Marrakesh, Morocco, to an Orthodox Jewish family. The family lived in the city’s Mellah, or Jewish quarter. His father, Shlomo, ran a grocery store, and his mother, Mazal, was a housewife. Vanunu studied in an Alliance française school, and a Jewish religious elementary school, or cheder. In 1963, following a rise in anti-semitic sentiment in Morocco, Vanunu’s father sold his business, and the family emigrated to Israel. Vanunu was eight years old at the time and had four brothers and sisters. Upon arrival in Israel, the family was sent by the Jewish Agency to Beersheba, which at that time was an impoverished desert town. During their first year in Israel, the family lived in a small wooden hut without electricity. Vanunu’s father purchased a small grocery store in the town’s market area, and the family moved into an apartment. Vanunu’s father devoted his spare time to religious studies. He came to be regarded as a rabbi, and became well-respected in the market. Vanunu was sent to Yeshiva Techonit, a religious elementary school on the outskirts of town, which mixed religious and conventional studies. When he completed 8th grade, his parents sent him to a yeshiva, but after three months, they pulled him out. For high school, Vanunu attended Yeshivat Ohel Shlomo high school, a Bnei Akiva-run school, where he was an honor student.
According to Vanunu, whilst in secondary school, he had a personal crisis which led to him deciding to leave Judaism. In an interview, he said that “already at this stage, I decided to cut myself off from the Jewish religion, but I didn’t want to have a confrontation with my parents because I wanted to complete my studies”. Vanunu finished high school with a partial matriculation. Vanunu’s parents wanted him to attend a higher yeshiva; he agreed but left after a week. He then found a temporary job in the court archives. In October 1971, he was conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces. He tried to join the Israeli Air Force as a pilot, but after failing the entrance exam, was sent to the Combat Engineering Corps and became a sapper. After basic training, he completed a commanders’ course and then a non-commissioned officers course, attaining the rank of Sergeant-Major. He was stationed on the Golan Heights and saw action during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1974, he participated in the demolition of army installations in areas of the Golan that were to be handed back to Syria. Vanunu was offered a permanent job with the army as a career soldier, but declined the offer, and was honorably discharged in 1974. He then enrolled at Tel Aviv University and entered a pre-academic course, completing his matriculation. During this period, he worked in a variety of places, including in a bakery and retirement home. He entered university and studied physics. After failing two exams at the end of his first year and realizing that the full-time work he needed to pay for his education interfered with his studies, Vanunu dropped out and returned to his parents’ home in Beersheba, and worked in a series of odd jobs.
In 1976, Vanunu applied for a job at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, an Israeli facility used to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons located in the Negev Desert south of Dimona. Most worldwide intelligence agencies estimate that Israel developed nuclear weapons as early as the 1960s, but the country has intentionally maintained a “nuclear ambiguity”, neither acknowledging nor denying that it possesses nuclear weapons. Vanunu was responding to an advertisement for trainee technicians to work at the facility.
After a lengthy interview with the facility’s security officer, he was accepted for training, and was put through an intensive training course in physics, chemistry, mathematics, first aid, fire drill, and English. He did sufficiently well to be accepted, and was employed as a nuclear plant technician and shift manager in February 1977.
In 1979, he enrolled at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. Initially, he wanted to study engineering, but within a week switched to economics, and also began a Greek philosophy course. In the autumn of 1980, he took a backpacking trip through Europe. He toured London, Amsterdam, Germany, and Scandinavia, and then visited Greece and toured the Greek islands with a Canadian friend. In the summer of 1983, he took a three-month trip to the United States and Canada with a friend. At that time he became critical of many policies of the Israeli government. In March 1984, he formed a left-wing group called “Campus” with five Arab and four Jewish students. Vanunu was also affiliated with a group called “Movement for the Advancement of Peace”. He opposed the 1982 Lebanon War, and campaigned for equal rights for Arab Israelis. In his security file at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, it was noted that he had displayed “left-wing and pro-Arab beliefs”. He became acquainted with many Arab students, including pro-PLO activists. In June 1984, he was interrogated at the facility’s security office. The next month, he left for Paris for two weeks with a student group to meet French-Jewish students, and when he returned, he was interrogated again. In May 1984, he was again questioned by the head of security at Dimona and a lawyer who was possibly from Shin Bet, and was let off with a stern warning about divulging any unauthorized information. Vanunu graduated from Ben-Gurion University in 1985 with a BA in philosophy and geography.
In early 1985, Vanunu lost his job following a mass layoff of workers due to government cutbacks, but his labor union won him his job back. After he resumed working at the facility, Vanunu secretly smuggled in a camera and covertly took 57 photographs. Vanunu quit his job on October 27, 1985, due to repeated efforts by his superiors to transfer him to tasks that were less sensitive than his previous positions at the facility. He was given severance pay of $7,500 and a reference letter praising his work and describing his departure as a layoff.
On 15 April 2015, The National Security Archive of George Washington University published documents corroborating Vanunu’s statements regarding the Dimona Negev Nuclear Research Center. The archived documents detail the discovery of Israel’s nuclear deceptions, debates over Israel’s lack of candor and efforts to pressure the Israelis to answer key questions about the Dimona facility.
In 1985, Vanunu met Judy Zimmet, an American woman working as a midwife in Soroka Medical Center, and moved in with her in November 1985. After accompanying Zimmet and her sister on a tour around Israel, he embarked on a backpacking trip throughout the Far East, and planned to meet her in the United States afterwards, though he later became uncertain about continuing the relationship. On January 19, 1986, he left Israel for Greece by boat. After spending a few days in Athens, he flew to Thailand, transiting through Moscow. During his time in Thailand, he visited the Golden Triangle, where he tried opium and hash cocktails. He then flew to Burma, where he met and befriended Fiona Gall, daughter of British journalist Sandy Gall. After touring Mandalay together, Vanunu flew on his own to Nepal. During his time in Nepal, Vanunu visited the Soviet embassy in Kathmandu to inquire about the travel documents he would need for a future trip to the Soviet Union. He then returned to Thailand, and from there flew to Sydney, Australia. Vanunu decided to settle permanently in Australia, and after ten days of sightseeing, he found a job as a dishwasher at the Menzies Hotel, and then at a Greek restaurant. Meanwhile, he studied for and eventually gained a taxi license. He also began attending a church, and in July 1986, converted to Christianity, joining the Anglican Church of Australia. He moved into an apartment owned by the church and found work driving a taxi owned by a parishioner. During this time, he met Oscar Guerrero, a freelance journalist from Colombia. Guerrero persuaded Vanunu to sell his story, claiming that his story and photographs were worth up to $1 million. After failing to interest Newsweek, Guerrero approached the British Sunday Times, and within a few days, Vanunu was interviewed by Sunday Times journalist Peter Hounam. In early September 1986, Vanunu flew to London with Hounam and, in violation of his non-disclosure agreement, revealed to the Sunday Times his knowledge of the Israeli nuclear programme, including the photographs he had secretly taken at the Dimona site.
The Sunday Times was wary of being duped, especially in light of the recent Hitler Diaries hoax. As a result, the newspaper insisted on verifying Vanunu’s story with leading nuclear weapon experts, including former U.S. nuclear weapons designer Theodore Taylor and former British AWE engineer Frank Barnaby, who agreed that Vanunu’s story was factual and correct.
Vanunu gave detailed descriptions of lithium-6 separation required for the production of tritium, an essential ingredient of fusion-boosted fission bombs. While both experts concluded that Israel might be making such single-stage boosted bombs, Vanunu, whose work experience was limited to material (not component) production, gave no specific evidence that Israel was making two-stage thermonuclear bombs, such as neutron bombs. Vanunu described the plutonium processing used, giving a production rate of about 30 kg per year, and stated that Israel used about 4 kg per weapon. From this information it was possible to estimate that Israel had sufficient plutonium for about 150 nuclear weapons.
Vanunu states in his letters that he intended to share the money received from the newspaper (for the information) with the Anglican Church of Australia. Apparently, frustrated by the delay while Hounam was completing his research, Vanunu approached a rival newspaper, the tabloid Sunday Mirror, whose owner was Robert Maxwell. In 1991, a self-described former Mossad officer or government translator named Ari Ben-Menashe alleged that Maxwell, allegedly an agent for Israeli intelligence services, had tipped off the Israeli Embassy about Vanunu in 1986.
The Israeli government decided to capture Vanunu, but determined to avoid harming its good relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and not wanting to risk confrontation with British intelligence, determined Vanunu should be persuaded to leave British territory under his own volition. Israel’s efforts to capture Vanunu were headed by Giora Tzahor.
Through constant surveillance and analysis by Mossad psychologists, the Mossad found that Vanunu had become lonely and eager for female companionship. Masquerading as an American tourist called “Cindy”, Israeli Mossad agent Cheryl Bentov befriended Vanunu, and on 30 September persuaded him to fly to Rome with her on a holiday. This relation has been perceived as a classic honey trap operation whereby an intelligence agent employs seduction to gain the target’s trust—a practice which has been officially sanctioned in Israel. On the day Bentov met Vanunu, the Israeli Navy electronic surveillance ship INS Noga was ordered to the Italian coast.
The Noga, disguised as a merchant ship, was fitted with electronic surveillance equipment and satellite communications gear in its superstructure, and was primarily used to intercept communications traffic in Arab ports. As the ship was heading from Antalya in Turkey back to Haifa, the captain was instructed in an encrypted message to change course for Italy and anchor off the coast. The Noga arrived off the Italian port city of La Spezia and anchored in international waters, just outside Italian territorial waters.
Once in Rome, Vanunu and Bentov took a taxi to an apartment in the old quarter of the city, where three waiting Mossad operatives overpowered Vanunu and injected him with a paralyzing drug. Later that night, a white van hired by the Israeli embassy arrived, and Vanunu was carried to it on a stretcher. The ambulance drove out of Rome, down the coast to a pre-arranged point.
Vanunu was transferred to a waiting speedboat, which then rendezvoused with the waiting Noga anchored off the coast. He was brought aboard the Noga in total secrecy. The crew were told to assemble in the ship’s common room and lock the door as Vanunu and the Mossad agents were taken aboard. The ship then departed for Israel. During the journey, Vanunu was kept in a cabin, with Mossad agents taking turns guarding him. None of the Noga’s crew was allowed to look at the prisoner.
On 6 October, the ship anchored off the coast of Israel between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where it was met by a smaller vessel to which Vanunu was transferred. The vessel then took Vanunu to the shore, where he was taken into custody and questioned by Mossad interrogators.
On 5 October, the Sunday Times published the information it had revealed, and estimated that Israel had produced more than 100 nuclear warheads.
In July 2004 Vanunu claimed in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the State of Israel was complicit in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He claimed there were “near-certain indications” that Kennedy was assassinated in response to “pressure he exerted on Israel’s then head of government, David Ben-Gurion, to shed light on Dimona’s nuclear reactor”.
In March 2015 Vanunu established an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000.00 he was ordered to pay the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, when Israel’s Court ruled against Vanunu’s libel suit against the publication for a November 1999 article. Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline read: “Vanunu gave Hamas activists information on bomb assembly in prison” and a second-page insert entitled, “He’s done it again”, claimed Vanunu sent messages containing bomb-making information to incarcerated members of Hamas. Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu’s defense attorney argued the report was fabricated by Israel’s internal Security Agency.
On 2 September 2015 Vanunu granted his first interview to Israel Media in a Channel 2 interview regarding the Mossad operative who trapped him in 1986.
Vanunu was put on trial in Israel on charges of treason and espionage. The trial, held in secret, took place in the Jerusalem District Court before Chief Justice Eliyahu Noam and Judges Zvi Tal and Shalom Brenner. Vanunu was represented by Avigdor Feldman, a prominent Israeli civil and human rights lawyer. He was not permitted contact with the media but he wrote the details of his abduction (or “hijacking”, as he put it) on the palm of his hand, and while being transported he held his hand against the van’s window so that waiting journalists could get the information.
On 28 March 1988, Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage and sentenced to eighteen years of imprisonment from the date of his abduction in Rome. The Israeli government refused to release the transcript of the court case until, after the threat of legal action, it agreed to let censored extracts be published in Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, in late 1999.
The death penalty in Israel is restricted to special circumstances, and only two executions have ever taken place there. In 2004, former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit told Reuters that the option of extrajudicial killing was considered in 1986, but rejected because “Jews don’t do that to other Jews.”
Vanunu served his eighteen-year sentence at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon. He spent more than eleven years of his sentence in solitary confinement, allegedly out of concern that he might reveal more Israeli nuclear secrets and because he was still bound by the contract that swore him to secrecy on the subject. While in prison, Vanunu took part in small acts of non-submission, such as refusing psychiatric treatment, refusing to talk with the guards, reading only English-language newspapers, and watching only BBC television. “He is the most stubborn, principled, and tough person I have ever met,” said his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman.
In 1998, Vanunu appealed to the Supreme Court for his Israeli citizenship to be revoked. The Interior Minister denied Vanunu’s request on grounds that he did not have another citizenship.
Many critics argue that Vanunu had no additional information that would pose a real security threat to Israel, and that the Israeli government’s real motivation is a desire to avoid political embarrassment and financial complications for itself and allies such as the United States. By not acknowledging possession of nuclear weapons, Israel avoids a US legal prohibition on funding countries which proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Such an admission would prevent Israel from receiving over $2 billion each year in military and other aid from Washington.
Ray Kidder, then a senior American nuclear scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has said:
On the basis of this research and my own professional experience, I am ready to challenge any official assertion that Mr. Vanunu possesses any technical nuclear information not already made public.
His last appeal against his conviction, to the Israeli Supreme Court in 1990, failed.
Vanunu was released from prison on 21 April 2004. Surrounded by dozens of journalists and flanked by two of his brothers, he held an impromptu press conference, but refused to answer questions in Hebrew because of the suffering he said he sustained at the hands of the State of Israel. Vanunu said Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement. “You didn’t succeed to break me, you didn’t succeed to make me crazy,” he said. Vanunu also called for Israel’s nuclear disarmament, and for its dismantlement as a Jewish state. Around 200 supporters and a smaller number of counter-demonstrators attended the conference. He indicated a desire to completely dissociate himself from Israel, initially refusing to speak in Hebrew, and planning to move to Europe or the United States as soon as the Israeli government would permit him to do so. Shortly before his scheduled release, Vanunu remained defiant under interrogation by the security service, Shin Bet. In recordings of the interview made public after his release, he is heard saying “I am neither a traitor nor a spy, I only wanted the world to know what was happening.” He also said, “We don’t need a Jewish state. There needs to be a Palestinian state. Jews can, and have lived anywhere, so a Jewish State is not necessary.” “Vanunu is a difficult and complex person. He remains stubbornly, admirably uncompromisingly true to his principles, is willing to pay the price”, said Ha’aretz newspaper in 2008.
Ever since his release, Vanunu has been living at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. He regularly receives visitors and sympathizers, and has repeatedly defied the conditions of his release by giving interviews to foreign journalists.
A number of prohibitions were placed upon Vanunu after his release from jail and are still in force, in particular:
- he shall not be able to have contacts with foreigners
- his telephone and Internet use shall be monitored
- he shall not enter Internet chat rooms
- he shall not own cellular phones
- he shall not approach or enter embassies and consulates
- he shall not come within 500 meters of any international border crossing
- he shall not visit any port of entry into Israel
- he shall not leave the State of Israel
Israeli authorities state that their reason of these restrictions is fear of his spreading further state secrets and that he is still bound by his non-disclosure agreement. These stipulate that he must inform the authorities in advance about his place of residence, his movements between cities, and whom he intends to meet. While a court found in 2005 that he should be free to go to the Gaza Strip and West Bank, a year later further restrictions explicitly forbade him to visit either, reversing the court’s initial decision.
Vanunu says that his knowledge is now outdated and he has nothing more he could possibly reveal that is not already widely known. Despite the stated restrictions Vanunu has given interviews to the foreign press since his release, including a live phone interview to BBC Radio Scotland.
On 22 April 2004, Vanunu asked the government of Norway for a Norwegian passport and asylum in the country for “humanitarian reasons,” according to Norwegian media. He also sent applications to other countries, and stated that he would accept asylum in any country because he fears for his life. Former conservative Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch asked the conservative government to give Vanunu asylum, and the University of Tromsø offered him a job. On 9 April 2008, it was revealed that Vanunu’s request for asylum in Norway was rejected in 2004 by Erna Solberg, at the time Minister of Local Government in the liberal coalition government led by then Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.
While the Norwegian foreigner directorate (State Department) (UDI) had been prepared to grant Vanunu asylum, it was suddenly decided that the application could not be accepted because Vanunu had applied for it from outside of the borders of Norway. An unclassified document revealed that Solberg and the government considered that extracting Vanunu from Israel might be seen as an action against Israel and thereby unfitting the Norwegian government’s traditional role as a friend of Israel and as a political player in the Middle East. Since the information has been revealed, Solberg has rejected criticism and defended her decision.
Vanunu’s application for asylum in Sweden was also rejected on the grounds that Sweden, like Norway does not accept absentee asylum applications.
He also unsuccessfully requested asylum in Ireland, which would require him to first be allowed to leave Israel. He has not applied for asylum in his native Morocco.
In 2006, Amnesty International’s British branch chief, Kate Allen, wrote that Microsoft handed over the details of Vanunu’s Hotmail email account by alluding that he was being investigated for espionage. This happened before a court order had been obtained.
International calls for his freedom of movement and freedom of speech made by organizations supporting Vanunu have been either ignored or rejected by Israel.
On 15 May 2008, the “Norwegian Lawyer’s Petition for Vanunu” was released, signed by 24 Norwegian attorneys. It calls on the Norwegian government to urgently implement a three-point action plan “within the framework of international and Norwegian law” and allow Vanunu to travel to, live and work in Norway.
On 11 October 2010, Vanunu’s appeal to rescind the restrictions and allow him to leave Israel and speak to foreigners was denied by the Israeli Supreme Court.
On 7 May 2015, Mordechai Vanunu reported the restrictions denying his right to leave Israel were renewed for the 12th year since he was released from prison.
On 3 June 2015, Minister Vidar Helgesen said Norway had asked Israel to abolish the restrictions against Vanunu leaving Israel for humanitarian considerations. Centre Party foreign policy spokesman Navarsete stated, “I would urge the government to make a difference…it would attract international attention if Norway gave nuclear whistleblower asylum or emergency passport – despite the Israeli sanctions against him.”
In September 2015, Mordechai Vanunu’s eighth Petition to remove the restrictions against him will be considered by Israel’s High Court.
On 12 August 2015, Mordechai Vanunu and his wife applied for family reunification via the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv. Vanunu’s exit to Norway must be accepted by Israel and his entry approved by Norway. Norway had previously said that they could only issue emergency passports to people who are already on Norwegian soil. However, his wife is a Professor at the School of Theology in Oslo, and thus fulfills the requirement that one must be able to provide for their spouse.
On 23 December 2015, Vanunu wrote: “Freedom of speech and Freedom of movement. 2016 Freedom year” in an update to his 30 October 2015 statement regarding his 8th Supreme Court Appeal. On 30 October Vanunu wrote: “I had a court hearing on 26 October 2015. We appealed all the restrictions. I even spoke to the Judges. They gave to the police 90 days to end their investigation for last arrest, after that they will decide.”
On 24 February 2016, Vanunu tweeted his latest news regarding Israel’s Supreme Court which has ordered the Prosecution to respond no later than 21 April 2016 regarding Vanunu’s 8th Supreme Court appeal to end all restrictions and allow him to leave Israel.
Yossi Melman, an Israeli journalist, wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz “Vanunu’s harassment by the Israeli government is unprecedented and represents a distortion of every accepted legal norm.” Vanunu was denied parole at a hearing in May 1998. Five years later, parole was again refused. At this parole hearing, Vanunu’s lawyer Avigdor Feldman maintained that his client had no more secrets and should be freed. But the prosecution argued that the imminent war with Iraq would preclude his release. After the hearing, Feldman said, “The prosecutor said that if Vanunu were released, the Americans would probably leave Iraq and go after Israel and Israel’s nuclear weapons – which I found extremely ridiculous.” The real force blocking Vanunu’s release, who had been known only as “Y”, was exposed in 2001 as Yehiyel Horev, the head of Mossad’s nuclear and military secrets branch. Following his release in 2004, Vanunu appeared in Israeli courts on numerous occasions on charges of having violated the terms of his release. He was arrested and detained for attempting to go to Bethlehem, on at least one occasion his room in St. George’s Cathedral was raided by policemen and his belongings were confiscated.
Yehiel Horev, the strictest of all the security chiefs in Israel, especially in regard to the protection of institutions such as the Dimona facility and the Biological Institute, is apprehensive that if Vanunu goes abroad, he will continue to be a nuisance by stimulating the public debate over Israel’s nuclear policy and the nuclear weapons he says Israel possesses. This is the secret that has not yet been told in the affair: the story of the security fiasco that made it possible for Vanunu to do what he did, and the story of subsequent attempts to cover-up, whitewash and protect senior figures in the defense establishment, who were bent on divesting themselves of responsibility for the failure.
- On 11 November 2004, Vanunu was arrested by the International Investigations Unit of the Israel Police at around 9am while eating breakfast. The arrest stemmed from an ongoing probe examining suspicions of leaking national secrets and violating legal rulings since his release from prison.
Police raided the walled compound of St. George’s Cathedral, removing papers and a computer from Vanunu’s room. After a few hours’ detention, Vanunu was put under house arrest, which was to last seven days.
- On 24 December 2004 in a vehicle marked as belonging to the foreign press, Vanunu was arrested by Israeli Police while he was attempting to enter the West Bank in violation of his release restrictions (see above), allegedly to attend mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. After posting bail of 50,000 NIS, he was released into five-day house arrest.
- On 26 January 2005 the BBC reported that its Jerusalem deputy bureau chief, Simon Wilson, was banned from Israel after he refused to submit interview material made with Vanunu to Israeli censors. Vanunu gave the interview in violation of court orders. Wilson was allowed to return to Israel on 12 March 2005 after signing an apology letter acknowledging that he defied the law.
- On 17 March 2005 Vanunu was charged with 21 counts of “contravening a lawful direction” (maximum penalty two years’ imprisonment per count) and one count of “attempting to contravene a lawful direction.”
- On 18 November 2005 Vanunu was arrested at the al-Ram checkpoint north of Jerusalem as he was returning by bus from the West Bank. The Israeli authorities claimed Vanunu’s travel ban includes visits to the Palestinian territories.
- On 13 April 2007 Vanunu was informed that the Israeli government has continued his house arrest in Jerusalem and renewed all the restrictions against him, for the fourth time and third year of detention in east Jerusalem.
- On 30 April 2007 Vanunu was convicted of violating the order barring foreign contacts and traveling outside Jerusalem.
- In July 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to a further six months imprisonment for speaking to foreigners and traveling to Bethlehem. The court’s sentence was unexpected, and even the prosecution expected the court to hand down a suspended sentence, meant solely as a deterrent. Following his sentence, Vanunu commented that his conviction proved that Israel was still ruled, in effect, by the British Mandate because the law under which he was convicted is from that era. “Maybe I need to turn to the Queen or to Tony Blair in order to grant me justice,” he said.
- While having dinner at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem with a foreigner, Vanunu was arrested for the second time on a Christmas Eve.
- On 7 January 2008, the day before his appeal against the above sentence was to begin, Vanunu was re-sentenced to six months of community service.
- In April 2008 Vanunu learned that Israel had renewed the restrictions against him again. On 9 April 2008 it was reported that Norway had joined Sweden, Canada and Denmark in refusing asylum to Vanunu.
- On 9 April 2008 unclassified documents revealed that the Norwegian Bondevik’s Second Cabinet (19 October 2001 – 17 October 2005) denied Vanunu asylum in 2004 as a supportive gesture to Israel.
- On 13 May 2008 Vanunu wrote that although three judges attempted to convince the Government Lawyer to offer community service in East Jerusalem, it was denied.
Vanunu’s appeal against his six-month jail sentence was set to resume on 8 July 2008
- On 15 May 2008 the Norwegian Lawyer’s Petition called upon the Norwegian government to urgently implement a three-point action plan within the framework of international and Norwegian law, to grant Vanunu asylum and permission to work and stay in Norway.
- On 23 September 2008 the Jerusalem District Court announced: “In light of (Vanunu’s) ailing health and the absence of claims that his actions put the country’s security in jeopardy, we believe his sentence should be reduced.” Vanunu said his health is fine and that, “The issue is about my right to be free, my right to speak and my right to leave the state.”
- In October 2008, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond called for Vanunu’s release, saying, “The Scottish Government is well aware of the campaign by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supports the lifting of all restrictions imposed on Mr Mordechai Vanunu.”
- On 26 November 2008, “Vanunu’s Supreme Court appeal fighting a three-month jail sentence [reduced from six] for speaking to foreigners – who happened to be media – in 2004, is scheduled to be heard in the New Year.”
- On 14 June 2009, Vanunu stated, “The Central Commander of the General Army testified in court that it is OK if I speak in public as long as I do not talk about nuclear weapons…
They renewed the restrictions to not speak to foreigners until November. The appeal [against three months in jail for speaking to foreign media in 2004] was scheduled for January, then May 6th and June 18th. Now I am waiting for a new court date.”
- On 6 July 2009, Vanunu’s “attorney Avigdor Feldman…and the state agreed that after six months, pending a review of his conduct, Vanunu will be able to ask for the restrictions to be lifted and be allowed to travel abroad.”
- On 28 December 2009, Vanunu was arrested by Jerusalem Police in a hotel following an alleged meeting with his girlfriend.
- On 29 December 2009, Russian media reported that a search of Vanunu’s belongings uncovered a letter from an American causing Israeli officials to be concerned that “he could be orchestrating something.” On 1 January 2010, it was revealed that Vanunu has known his Norwegian girlfriend, Kristin Joachimsen, a scholar and an associate professor of biblical studies, for two years.
- On 7 January 2010, Vanunu published a video message to the media regarding his most recent arrest and Israel’s “impotent” nuclear ambiguity.
- On 14 April 2010, Vanunu reported that the restrictions denying him the right to leave Israel were renewed for another year.
- On 11 May 2010, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Mordechai Vanunu, will “serve a three-month jail sentence handed to him by Jerusalem District Court and not community service” which will begin on May 23, 2010.
Vanunu had been sentenced to community service, but had stated his refusal to perform community service in west Jerusalem, claiming that he would be in danger of being assaulted by a member of the Israeli public, but offered to do community service in east Jerusalem. The Court refused Vanunu’s offer. Eleven days earlier, Amnesty International had released a press release following the announcement of this sentence: “If Mordechai Vanunu is imprisoned again, Amnesty International will declare him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.”
- On 24 May 2010, Vanunu began serving his three-month prison sentence. On June 18, it was reported that Vanunu had been placed in solitary confinement.
- On 8 August 2010, Vanunu was released from prison.
- On 14 July 2011, Vanunu appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to instruct Interior Minister Eli Yishai to revoke his Israeli citizenship, claiming that “the Israeli street” and media were treating him belligerently, and that he could “no longer find his place in Israeli society”, and that despite his release from prison, “the State of Israel continues to penalize him by imposing various restrictions on his person and travels”.
Vanunu’s appeal noted an amendment to the Citizenship Act which allowed the Interior Minister to revoke his citizenship even if he did not hold another one, and claimed that revocation of his Israeli citizenship would allow him to seek citizenship or permanent residency in a European country.
- On 31 August 2011, Vanunu wrote: “The court hearing about the restrictions, not to speak to foreigners, not to leave Israel will be on Oct’ 3 [it is possible the date can be changed]. About canceling my Israel citizenship, we are waiting to hear from Interior minister or we will have one more court hearing.”
- On 1 May 2012, Vanunu deactivated his Facebook and Twitter accounts after an announcement that the Israeli government was monitoring those accounts.
- On 6 June 2012, the High Court of Justice denied Vanunu’s petition to renounce his Israeli citizenship. Vanunu said, “I want them to revoke my citizenship so that I can begin my life.”
- On 23 April 2015, Vanunu was arrested but it was not reported until the 29th after Vanunu’s attorney Michael Sfard posted at his Facebook page, “Vanunu was in a bookstore near the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem where he met two tourists and to the amazement of the store’s customers, it was raided by seven border police…after hours of interrogation, Vanunu was released.” Vanunu was arrested on suspicions he had violated the restriction against his speaking with foreigners for more than 30 minutes.
- On 25 September 2015, Vanunu reported “Sep. 10- Nine police men come to my home with a search warrant and arrest warrant, they took all my digitale stuff, computers, iPhone, memory stick, hard drive, camera, CDs, every thing, with all the passwords to all my internet activity. They are still holding all these thing. Sep. 25- I am back in the Internet, after one-week house arrest, and 2 weeks no Internet, all this for giving a TV interview in Hebrew, more than a decade after completing an 18-year jail term.”
- On 30 October 2015, Vanunu reported regarding his 8th Supreme Court Appeal, “I had a court hearing on [October 26, 2015]. We appealed all the restrictions. I even spoke to the Judges. They gave to the police 90 days to end their investigation for last arrest, after that they will decide. Without Freedom of Speech and without Freedom of Movement in Israel, now without my Computers and iPhone since Sep. 2015.”
- On 8 May 2016, Vanunu was indicted for “a single meeting with two foreigners that occurred three years ago”, for moving into a different apartment at the same address, and for an interview he gave to Danny Kushmaro at Channel 2, which had passed the censor.
- On 4 July 2016, Mordechai Vanunu’s trial began for allegedly sharing classified information in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television channel, for moving into a different apartment without informing the police, and for meeting with two foreign nationals three years ago.
Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 1987.
Vanunu wrote the poem “I’m Your Spy” early during the first eleven and a half years he was held in strict isolation.
Vanunu received the Right Livelihood Award in 1987. He was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Tromsø in 2001.
In March 2009 Vanunu wrote to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo:
I am asking the committee to remove my name from the list for this year’s list of nominations. I cannot be part of a list of laureates that includes Shimon Peres, the President of Israel.
He is the man who was behind all the Israeli atomic policy. Peres established and developed the atomic weapon program in Dimona in Israel..Peres was the man who ordered the kidnapping of me in Italy Rome, Sept. 30, 1986, and for the secret trial and sentencing of me as a spy and traitor for 18 years in isolation in prison in Israel. Until now he continues to oppose my freedom and release, in spite of my serving full sentence 18 years. From all these reasons I don’t want be nominated and will not accept this nomination.
I say No to any nomination as long as I am not free, that is, as long as I am still forced to be in Israel. What I want is freedom and only freedom.
In September 2004, Vanunu received the LennonOno Grant for Peace, a peace prize founded by artist and musician Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon, her late husband.
In December 2004, he was elected by the students of the University of Glasgow to serve for three years as Rector. On 22 April 2005 he was formally installed in the post, but could not carry out any of its functions as he was still confined to Israel. The Herald newspaper launched a campaign for his release.
In 2005 he received the Peace Prize of the Norwegian People (Folkets fredspris). Previous recipients of this prize include Vytautas Landsbergis (1991), Alva Myrdal (1982), Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams.
On 24 February 2010, the Nobel Institute Director, Geir Lundestad, announced that for the second year in a row, Mordechai Vanunu had declined the honour of being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
On 21 September 2010, the Teach Peace Foundation recognized Mordechai Vanunu for his courageous actions to halt the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by the Israeli government.
On 4 October 2010, the International League for Human Rights announced that Vanunu was awarded the Carl von Ossietzky Medal for 2010 and, on 16 November, sent open letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, seeking Vanunu’s free departure out of Israel to allow him to receive the medal at the Award Ceremony in Berlin on 12 December 2010. Nobel laureates cited as co-signatories to the letter include Mairead Maguire, Günter Grass, Harold W. Kroto and Jack Steinberger.
The request was refused and the 12 December Berlin medal ceremony was restyled as a protest event in support of Vanunu and nuclear disarmament. On this occasion a musical composition, The Dove, was dedicated to Vanunu and given its premier performance.
On 19 May 2015, Mordechai Vanunu wed Norwegian Professor Kristin Joachimsen at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.