Mordechai Vanunu, incarcerated for more than a decade in solitary confinement after exposing Israel‘s nuclear weapons programme, has been prevented from attending meetings in Britain to promote the protection of whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.
A decision by the Israeli supreme court to uphold a travel ban on Vanunu, 28 years after he first revealed Israel’s nuclear secrets, was sharply criticised on Tuesday by Amnesty International. He had been asked to address a meeting on whistleblowers on Tuesday sponsored by Amnesty and was invited by more than 50 senior peers and MPs to a meeting in Westminster on Wednesday.
The supreme court judges accepted the Israeli interior ministry’s claim that, if allowed to leave the country, Vanunu could damage Israel and its citizens with the information he could reveal about the country’s nuclear capacity.
“It’s a disgrace that the courts in Israel are denying this man the basic right to travel and speak freely,” Amnesty’s Karla McLaren said. “It’s a cruel irony that an Israeli court has seen fit to block a man from speaking about his experiences as a whistleblower in, of all places, the British parliament.”
Snowden, who was granted asylum by Russia, revealed mass surveillance operations by the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ to the Guardian, the Washington Post and other media organisations. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted of passing US documents on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks.
Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s nuclear plant near the southern town of Dimona, revealed details of the country’s nuclear arsenal to the Sunday Times in 1986. He was abducted by Mossad agents in Italy and secretly taken to Israel, where he was sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison. In 2010 he was jailed for three months for breaching restrictions imposed on him, which included speaking to foreigners and attempting to attend Christmas Mass in Bethlehem.
Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu’s lawyer, told Amnesty: “Upholding these undemocratic and ridiculous restrictions, for the past 10 years, after Vanunu had served a prison sentence of 18 years, has nothing to do with the security of the state, but are vindictive and cruel steps which serve one purpose – to make an outcast of Vanunu, and destroy him as a human being and as a true anti-nuclear activist.”
The 54 MPs and peers who invited Vanunu to speak at an event scheduled to take place on Wednesday included the former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, according to Amnesty.