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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
Vanunu 'wanted to avert holocaust'
Vanunu: Widely regarded as a traitor in Israel
Vanunu: Widely regarded as a traitor in Israel
The former technician jailed for 18 years for leaking Israel's nuclear secrets has said he was trying to prevent a nuclear holocaust.

In his first interview since his release, Mordechai Vanunu said he did not feel he was a traitor.

"I felt it was not about betraying; it was about reporting. It was about saving Israel from a new holocaust."

In the interview for the BBC's This World programme, Mr Vanunu said he had no regrets over his actions.

"I have no regrets despite the fact I have paid a heavy punishment, a large price," he said.

Mr Vanunu, 50, who is widely regarded as a traitor in Israel, spent nearly 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel's clandestine nuclear arms programme.

I have no regrets in spite of the fact I have paid a heavy punishment, a large price - I think it was worth it
Mordechai Vanunu

Supporters welcomed his release in April, calling him a "hero of peace".

Under the terms of his release, Mr Vanunu is forbidden from leaving Israel, meeting foreigners and revealing secrets about the Dimona nuclear plant.

He was interviewed for This World by an Israeli journalist.

"What I did was to inform the world what is going on in secret. I didn't come and say, we should destroy Israel, we should destroy Dimona. I said, look what they have and make your judgement."

Kidnapped in Italy

Mr Vanunu went on to say: "I want to leave Israel, I'm not interested in living in Israel. I want to start my new life in the United States, or somewhere in Europe, and to start living as a human being."

Mr Vanunu was kidnapped in Italy by Israeli agents in 1986 following a Sunday Times article, based on an interview with him, which exposed Israel's atomic secrets.

He described how a female secret agent lured him from London to Rome and distracted him in the car.

We think he still knows secrets and we don't want him to sell them again
Joseph Lapid
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister
"We sat in the back. She used the time for kissing me, to divert my attention by a lot of kissing," Mr Vanunu said.

In Rome, Mr Vanunu was overpowered and drugged, then shipped back to Israel to be tried in secret.

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

Journalist arrested

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, Joseph Lapid, defended the restrictive terms of Mr Vanunu's release.

"We think he still knows secrets and we don't want him to sell them again," he told This World.

"We think there are things he knows that he hasn't divulged yet. He may do so - he's hell-bent to harm this country, he hates this country."

British journalist Peter Hounam, who wrote the original Sunday Times article, was arrested in Tel Aviv earlier this week and held in custody for a day.

Israel's Nuclear Whistleblower was broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday 30 May at 2245 BST.

The BBC's Olenka Frenkiel
"In Israel there is little sympathy for Vanunu"

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Vanunu: Hero or villain?
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20 Apr 04  |  Middle East
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22 Dec 03  |  Middle East


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