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The BBC's Jeremy Bowen reports from Jerusalem
"He became disenchanted with the top secret work he was doing"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 23:08 GMT
Vanunu trial extracts published
Vanunu in 1986, after capture by Israel's secret service

Israel has released 1,200 pages of testimony from the trial of Mordachai Vanunu, the nuclear technician imprisoned for revealing some of Israel's nuclear secrets.

The papers give, for the first time in his own words, a clear idea of Mordachai Vanunu's motives in revealing the existence of an Israeli military nuclear programme.

I wanted to confirm what everyone knew
Mordachai Vanunu during his trial in 1986

Shimon Peres, the former Israeli prime minister who is widely seen as the architect of the country's nuclear deterrent programme, criticised the release of the documents.

The transcript is not a complete record of the trial. The Israeli state attorney conceded in June that there were no damaging security implications in a partial release of the trial transcript.

18 years for treason

Vanunu was jailed in 1986 for 18 years after a trial for treason held in secret.

He leaked information about the stockpiling of nuclear weapons to British newspaper, The Sunday Times.

He was lured out of hiding in London by a female Israeli secret agent who persuaded him that she wanted to meet him in Rome. He was then drugged by other Israeli agents, kidnapped and brought home to face justice.

For most of his sentence he has been held in solitary confinement.

Vanunu in 1996. "Solitary confinement has almost sent him mad"
Vanunu's lawyer Avigdor Feldman has called for a release of a complete transcript of the trial and for a reduction in the sentence.

"He almost went out of his mind, but since being released from solitary confinement his condition has changed drastically," said he said.

"He's been in prison more than 13 years. The time has come to cut his sentence by a third and release him."

Vanunu's motives

According to the extracts published Wednesday, Vanunu told the court: "I wanted to confirm what everyone knew, I didn't want Israel to go on denying that it had nuclear weapons, and Shimon Peres to go on lying to Ronald Reagan, saying that we didn't have a nuclear arsenal."

"I also wanted controls to be placed on these weapons," Vanunu added.

Viewed as a traitor and a spy by most Israelis, Mr Vanunu is seen as a prisoner of conscience by many human rights groups and anti-nuclear campaigners.

Serious damage to Israel's deterrent

In 1986, Shimon Peres testified at the trial that Vanunu had done serious damage to Israel's security.

On Wednesday, Mr Peres said that it was not up to the judiciary, the media of any individual to decide what the nature of the Israeli deterrent forces should be.

"A certain amount of secrecy must be maintained in some fields," Mr Peres said. "The suspicion and fog surrounding this question are constructive, because they strengthen our deterrent."

The suspicion and fog surrounding this question are constructive, because they strengthen our deterrent.
Shimon Peres, former Israeli prime minister

Israel does not officially admit to having a military nuclear capacity, though the fact is as good as an open secret.

The official Israeli line is that the country would never be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.

This is taken to mean that Israel sees its nuclear programme as a deterrent rather than offensive capacity.

Mr Peres repeated this argument on Wednesday, saying Israel had "entered the atomic age not to arrive at Hiroshima but to arrive at Oslo."

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See also:
04 May 98 |  Middle East
Vanunu denied parole
22 Apr 98 |  Middle East
Vanunu appeals for release
19 Apr 98 |  Middle East
British visitors denied visit to Vanunu
13 Mar 98 |  World
Israel ends 12-year solitary

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