Amnesty criticised over call for Israel to drop Vanunu charges


An NGO watchdog has hit out at Amnesty International after the UK charity said Israel should drop its “ludicrous” charges against nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu.

Mr Vanunu was charged with violating the terms of his release on 8 May at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year jail term for handing details about Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant to the Sunday Times.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Amnesty said: “The Israeli authorities should drop the new charges made earlier this week against the nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, as well as lifting all restrictions still imposed on him.”

The new charges relate to a meeting Mr Vanunu had with two US nationals three years ago, an interview he gave to the Israeli broadcaster Channel 2 last September, and an allegation that he changed addresses without informing the police.

But professor Gerald Steinberg, president of the pro-Israel watchdog NGO Monitor, said: “Amnesty has a long and sad record of anti-Israel campaigning, and has no moral standing to make accusations or condemn the decisions of the elected Israeli government.

“Amnesty also has no competence on these issues, and the term ‘whistle blower’ is clearly out of place.
“In selling his secrets to an Australian journalist, Mr Vanunu blatantly violated pledges made when he accepted employment.

“The selective quotes from Vanunu's defenders, while erasing the many witnesses who presented opposite evidence, further damages any remaining credibility that Amnesty may have.”

Amnesty said: “If Vanunu is convicted and imprisoned under the new charges, Amnesty would consider him a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and the organisation would call for his immediate and unconditional release.

“Since his release from prison in 2004, Vanunu and his lawyers have fought without success to end a series of cruel and unnecessary restrictions which prevent him from leaving Israel, communicating with foreigners - including journalists - without the prior agreement of the authorities, entering or approaching foreign embassies, and participating in internet chats, and which require that he notify the police if he moves residence.”

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