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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK
Vanunu defiant ahead of release
Mordechai Vanunu seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on 13 May 2002
Mr Vanunu will be closely monitored after his release
The Israeli who went to jail for exposing the country's nuclear arms programme has defended his actions after nearly 18 years in prison.

Mordechai Vanunu appeared combative and defiant at an interrogation by security officials which was broadcast on Israeli TV to the dismay of his family.

The former nuclear technician is due to be released on Wednesday, but his freedom of movement will be restricted.

He denied treason and insisted he had acted in the interests of the world.

Just like they destroyed the Iraqi reactor, I want them to destroy the Israeli reactor
Mordechai Vanunu

"I am neither a traitor nor a spy," he said in the 20-minute interrogation broadcast by Israeli TV on Monday evening.

"I only wanted the world to know what was happening."

He said he had sought to expose the secret work of the Dimona nuclear plant in southern Israel in the UK's Sunday Times newspaper out of a desire to "destroy the reactor". He likened it to Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant, destroyed by an Israeli air attack in 1981.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem reports that at no point during his imprisonment had the Israeli public heard Mr Vanunu's voice until now.

Our correspondent says the remarks he made - which may well have been edited - are likely to anger many Israelis who still see him as a traitor.

Officials will be well aware of this, which may partially explain why they allowed the audiotape to be broadcast, he adds.

Nobody cared

Mr Vanunu told his Shin Bet interrogators that he opposed the existence of a "Jewish state" in the recording, made several weeks before the broadcast.

Dimona nuclear plant in Israel (aerial photo)
Israel built the Dimona plant with help from France

"We don't need a Jewish state," he said. "There needs to be a Palestinian state."

He added that there was no need for him to reveal anything more about Israel's nuclear programme, as the US and Europe already had all the information they needed.

"Despite everything that was published, nothing changed - no one came to Israel and made [disarmament] demands," he said.

Among government restrictions to be placed on Mr Vanunu's movements are thought to be a ban on going abroad, on speaking to foreigners and on getting within a hundred yards of any foreign embassy in Israel in case he should seek asylum.

'Totalitarian' state

A brother of the former technician, Meir, said it was "scandalous" that Shin Bet - the internal security service - had allowed the interrogation to be broadcast.

"This reminds one of the methods of a totalitarian country," he told AFP news agency.

Mr Vanunu's lawyers have appealed to the Israeli government to drop the restrictions as a "severe and unjustified infringement of the freedom of the released prisoner".

Mordechai Vanunu, who spent most of his sentence in solitary confinement, is due to be released from Shikma Prison in the southern port city of Ashkelon.

Despite the expected ban on associating with foreigners, many of his international supporters are expected to greet him.

Vanunu 'is still security risk'
09 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Israel's nuclear programme
22 Dec 03  |  Middle East
Nuclear watchdog 'ignores Israel'
30 Sep 03  |  Middle East
Vanunu trial extracts published
24 Nov 99  |  Middle East

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