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Mordechai Vanunu

(1954 - )

Mordechai Vanunu was an employee at Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona. In 1985, before leaving his job, he took photographs inside the facility.

Traveling through Asia with the film in his backpack, Vanunu made his way to Sydney, Australia, where he found companionship in an Anglican church social justice community with whom he shared the story of his nuclear background. In Sydney, he also converted to Christianity and was baptized in July 1986.

When the London Sunday Times heard about the information he possessed, they sent a reporter to Sydney to investigate, and then brought Vanunu to England, where his photos and facts were checked by British nuclear experts. The Times published the photos along with details about Israel’s nuclear capability on October 26, 1986.

Shortly after publication, the Mossad drugged and kidnapped Vanunu in Rome, whisking him off to Israel on September 30, 1986, where he was tried and convicted for leaking classified information and committing espionage. Vanunu received an 18-year prison sentence. He spent more than 11 1/2 years in solitary confinement before being released into the general prison population. He completed his sentence in Israel’s Ashkelon Prison on April 21, 2004, but the Israeli government imposed severe restrictions on his movement and speech, including the condition that he is not allowed to leave the country because he is still considered a security threat.

In March 2005, an Israeli court charged Vanunu with violating the terms of his release by giving interviews to foreign media and defying a travel ban.

Now living in Jerusalem’s St George's Anglican cathedral, Vanunu is banned from using the internet or mobile phones and may not approach embassies or borders.

Sources: Mitchell G. Bard and Moshe Schwartz, 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know About Israel, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005).
BBC News, (March 17, 2005).
The Vanunu Story.