Court rules that Vanunu cannot retrieve prison-era letters

The High Court of Justice on Monday ruled that convicted nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu will not be allowed to retrieve copies of confiscated letters he had written during his imprisonment since they contained secret information. With its decision, the High Court rejected a petition made in Vanunu’s name by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Vanunu, who had been working in the nuclear research facility in Dimona, met in 1985 with a reporter from the British Sunday Times and handed him information that revealed that Israel possessed atomic bombs. Vanunu was convicted in 1986 of assisting the enemy in a time of war and disclosing secret information, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. In 2004 he was released under restricted conditions. Several weeks before his release, the head of the prison ordered the confiscation of a large quantity of documents found in Vanunu’s cell, including 2,540 letters he had written and sent during his prison term. Although the letters were partially censored and had some contents erased, copies of the originals were kept. Court President Aharon Barak and justice Dorit Beinish rejected the petition and stated that there was no room for intervening in the decision of the prison commander since the letters contained sensitive information. Vanunu’s representative, attorney Dan Yakir from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, suggested that the state also censor the copies of the letters. But the justices upheld the state’s claim that the volume of letters and the difficulty of reading them would make the censoring a “huge task – time, money and manpower-wise.”