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Monday, 4 May, 1998, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Vanunu denied parole
Mordechai Vanunu in prison
Vanunu: still seen as a threat to Israeli security
An Israeli parole board has turned down a request for early release from prison by nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu.

The board said Mr Vanunu, 43, who has served two-thirds of his 18-year sentence, still posed a threat to Israeli security and foreign policy.

The former nuclear technician was found guilty of espionage in 1986 after he told a British newspaper, the Sunday Times, that Israel was secretly building atomic bombs.

"The decision of the parole board was not to release Mr Vanunu because there is real fear that it would damage Israel's security and its foreign relations," said Orit Messer-Harel, a spokeswoman for Israel's prison authority.

She said the board had also rejected arguments by Mr Vanunu that he had acted on ideological grounds.

Twelve years of solitary confinement

Mr Vanunu was held until recently in solitary confinement. He had become eligible for parole after serving 12 years of his sentence.

Mordechai Vanunu's lawyer Avigdor Feldman
Lawyer Feldman: will appeal
Mr Vanunu's lawyer Avigdor Feldman said he would appeal against the decision.

For the first time since his arrest, security authorities had allowed Mr Vanunu to pose in front of television cameras on his way to Monday's hearing.

Mr Vanunu has also asked the court to let him move to a prison wing designated for Arabs convicted of security offences against Israel. The court has said it would issue a ruling later in May.

The Sunday Times quoted Mr Vanunu last month as saying he had feared for his sanity during his years of solitary confinement but had no regrets about spilling Israel's nuclear secrets.

See also:

19 Apr 98 | Middle East
British visitors denied visit to Vanunu
22 Apr 98 | Middle East
Vanunu appeals for release
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