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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Wife angry at journalist's arrest
Vanunu and Hounam
Peter Hounam greeted Mordechai Vanunu on his release from prison
The wife of a British reporter held in Israel has accused Israeli authorities of a cover-up over his detention.

Hilary Hounam told BBC Radio Scotland she had been "fobbed off" when she enquired about her husband Peter, 60.

She believes his arrest is linked to his 1986 interview with Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu, who was jailed for exposing Israeli secrets.

"The government does not want any publicity for Vanunu - they hope that everything is kept quiet," she said.

'No sympathy'

Mr Vanunu, a 50-year-old former nuclear technician, served 18 years in prison after revealing Israel's atomic secrets in an interview with Mr Hounam for the Sunday Times in 1986.

The journalist, who lives in Aberfeldy in Perthshire, was among those who greeted him on his release in April from Shikma prison in Askhelon.

He was in Israel making a documentary for the BBC, which said it was aware he had been arrested and was "very concerned".

Peter Hounam's wife Hilary
I think the secret services can pretty much do what they like in Israel
Hilary Hounam
"He's been working on a BBC documentary and for the Sunday Times, and I'm quite sure it has a lot to do with his detention," Mrs Hounam said.

"The government does not want any publicity for Vanunu, they want no sympathy.

"They hope that everything is kept quiet, that he won't stand up and make any statements about Israel's nuclear policy.

"But he has in fact already made it clear that he has nothing more to say about Israel's nuclear weapons programme."

Scrupulous

The terms of Mr Vanunu's release banned him from giving interviews, meeting foreigners and discussing his work at Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona - terms which Mrs Hounam said her husband respected.

"Peter has been absolutely scrupulous in following the letter of the regulations, " she said.

"He hasn't talked to him [Vanunu] since the day of his release, and everything has had to be done second or third-hand, through his brother and through lawyers."

Mordechai Vanunu in 1986
Mordechai Vanunu was jailed after a Sunday Times interview
No details of Mr Hounam's arrest have been released because of an Israeli government gagging order and his wife said she had not managed to contact her husband.

"I've managed to speak to people, just to be fobbed off.

"I'm told by the police in Jerusalem that I have no right to speak to him - the lawyer has also been told this.

"They say there is no charge and they have a right from the court to hold him for 24 hours.

"They [the police] collected all of his belongings from his bedroom, put him in a car and he disappeared until we later discovered he was at the police station in Jerusalem."

Mrs Hounam said she had no idea what was going to happen to her husband.

"I think the secret services can pretty much do what they like in Israel, and this is of no surprise to Peter - he's known Israel well for 18 years and has been following Vanunu's case all that time.

"My assumption was that he would be put on the first plane back to the UK, which is what happened to the previous Sunday Times correspondent who was sent to Israel.

"But they're taking this a step further, so I cannot say what is happening to him."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rachel Wright
"Witnesses say he was bundled into a car"



SEE ALSO:
Defiant Vanunu celebrates freedom
21 Apr 04  |  Middle East
In pictures: Mordechai Vanunu released
21 Apr 04  |  In Pictures
Vanunu stays calm amid the chaos
21 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Israel confirms Vanunu restraints
20 Apr 04  |  Middle East


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