Vanunu to be freed to 'internal exile'

 Mordechai Vanunu - the Christian Israeli who blew the whistle on Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme in 1986, is due to be released from prison in Askelon this week - but he will not be a free man. After serving 12 of his 18 year sentence in solitary confinement, he faces drastic restrictions amounting to internal exile. His supporters say the restrictions - which they intend to challenge in the High Court - bar him from talking with foreigners, including by telephone, fax or email, and from going within 100 metres of a foreign embassy and within 300 metres of ports, airports, or border crossing points. Vanunu will be allowed to live in a town or city of his choosing but will be forbidden to leave its limits unless he first reports to local police. If he adheres to the restrictions they will be reviewed after six months, but a separate order by the Ministry of the Interior forbids him to travel abroad for at least a year. These restrictions are based on emergency legislation imposed during the British mandate in 1945 and never revoked by Israel. The former technician at the Dimona nuclear plant, was captured by Israeli secret agents after he talked to The Sunday Times in London about Israel's clandestine nuclear weapons programme in 1986. His brother Meir, who will be among more than 100 friends, campaigners and well-wishers outside the Shekma prison, said he was concerned about Mordechai. In The Independent on Sunday yesterday, he said: " Two months ago my brother was excited about coming out, saying 'they didn't break me!' Now I fear for him. There are still plenty of people who regard him as a traitor." Although Vanunu has many supporters abroad and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, he is a despised figure in Israel. Born in 1954 into a family of religious Moroccan Jews who emigrated to Israel in 1963, he spent three years in the army before being honourably discharged and going to work at Dimona. While there, he also studied philosophy at Ben Gurion University and came to the attention of the security services after becoming increasingly disenchanted with Israeli policies, and forming a radical group with other Jewish and Arab students. He also began to take photographs in secret inside Dimona. After being fired in 1985 he travelled to Australia, where he began going to his local Anglican church. He eventually became a Christian and was baptised by the Rev Dave Smith, in Sydney. It was at that church that he met the reporter who brought him to London to tell his story. Rev Smith has written to him every month since his incarceration and will be among those flying to Israel in an effort to greet his old friend.

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