Former spy arrested in Israel for breaking parole

Mordechai Vanunu, once a low-level technician at an Israeli nuclear plant who served 18 years in prison for espionage against Israel, was arrested on Monday for violating the terms of his parole, which include no contact with foreign citizens or foreign media.

In 1986, he blabbed details and shared photos of Israel’s nuclear weapons program (which Israel neither acknowledges nor denies) to the British media. The British Sunday Times went on to publish the first evidence that Israel had the capacity to make nuclear bombs. Israel was obviously not pleased about the leak, and a Mossad sting subsequently lured Vanunu to Rome, where he was captured and forced to return to Israel by intelligence operatives.

In Israel, the whistleblower was tried and convicted for espionage and treason. He served 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement. Released in 2004, he has been taken into custody numerous times since for breaking the terms of his parole, as he did on Monday, by meeting with a Norwegian national in a hotel. He has now been put under house arrest, where he is awaiting an indictment.

According to his lawyer, Vanunu is only interested romantically in the Norwegian woman he met.

Vanunu feels that he’s been mistreated in Israel largely due to his conversion to Christianity. During a recent court hearing, he made a plea to President Obama, with the hopes of being able to live under less scrutiny: “Obama wants a world free of nuclear weapons, and he should push for my release.”

Vanunu’s been campaigning to be allowed to leave Israel, which doesn’t seem like a possibility, given the recent arrest for meeting with a foreigner. While some think that Israel has gone too far with Vanunu (cartoons protesting the length and severity of his punishment abound), Israeli authorities are concerned that he is privy to and will reveal more nuclear secrets, so they’re unlikely to loosen their grip…

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