#IndexAwards2004: Mordechai Vanunu, Special Award


Mordechai Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu was granted Index on Censorship’s Special Award in 2004 for his work as a whistleblower on Israel’s nuclear programme. While working as a nuclear technician for the Israeli government in the 1980s he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for exposing their possession of nuclear weapons to the Sunday Times.

In April 2004 he was released and has since been fighting for his right to leave Israel – the foundational condition of Vanunu’s release from prison was a prohibition on leaving the country. In addition, he is prohibited from contacting embassies or having any interaction with foreigners that has not been pre-approved by Israeli officials. Shortly after his release he unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Norway, Ireland and Sweden. He has been rejected asylum status numerous times since it is not legally possible to apply for asylum in a country without physically being there. Essentially, so long as the prohibition on leaving Israel remains, he cannot meaningfully seek asylum.

Israel’s High Court has had a central role in determining Vanunu’s fate since 2004. In 2008 24 influential Norwegian lawyers signed the “Norwegian Lawyer’s Petition for Vanunu”. In September of the same year the eighth petition calling for Vanunu’s conditions to be lifted was rejected by the High Court. And less than 2 months ago Vanunu was convicted of violating the terms of his release by meeting with two US citizens in 2013 without permission from the authorities. He is to appear in court for sentencing this month.

This is only the latest struggle in the past 30 years of Vanunu’s life, after he first leaked photos of Isreali nuclear production plants to the Sunday Times in 1986. Vanunu’s struggle for freedom has not gone unnoticed by the world. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 1987. In 2010 the International League for Human Rights sent open letters to Benjamin Netanyahu seeking Vanunu’s free release. In 2015 Vanunu said that he had no desire nor even any means of spilling more secrets on Israel’s nuclear programme. He stated that he simply wants to join his wife, theology professor Kristin Joachimsen, in Norway. In the same year the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament wrote to the Guardian calling for a vigil to be held outside of the Israeli Embassy in London in honour of Vanunu’s birthday.

However, there may be hope. In October 2015 Vanunu appealed the terms of his release to the Israeli Supreme Court, and in January this year he shared on Facebook that the Supreme Court would rule on his appeal in the coming month. On March 3, 2017, Vanunu wrote: “We are now waiting for the Supreme Court decision, it could be anytime soon. And it could be good or nothing, I am used to all this for 31 years, 1986-2017. Freedom must come.”

Fionnuala McRedmond is a member of Index on Censorship’s Youth Advisory Board. She graduated last June from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Classics. She is now studying for a MSc in Political Theory at the London School of Economics.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”85476″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/11/awards-2017/”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

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