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Israel to Probe if Vanunu Violated Release Terms - 2004-07-29


Israeli police are investigating whether freed former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu violated the terms of his release and endangered national security. The high-level inquiry was launched after Vanunu told an Arabic newspaper that Israel possesses hydrogen as well as atomic bombs. A special high-level team comprised of state prosecutors, police and intelligence officers, has been formed to investigate Vanunu. The key question before them is whether Vanunu has breached the conditions of his release by giving interviews to the foreign media and endangered Israel's security.

The probe follows an interview published in the London-based Arabic weekly Al-Wassat. Vanunu is quoted by that newspaper as saying Israel has up to 200 atomic warheads, as well as a neutron bomb and hydrogen bombs.

Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Vanunu will be brought in for questioning over the interview.

He was set free in April, after serving 18 years in prison for divulging classified information about Israel's nuclear program to the London Sunday Times. The article was based on Vanunu's employment at Israel's secret Dimona reactor in the southern Negev desert.

In releasing him, Israel placed a number of strict restrictions on Vanunu, including a ban on talking to foreign media and traveling abroad.

On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court rejected his petition to have the restrictions lifted. The court ruled that Vanunu still has more secrets to disclose about the Dimona reactor and this posed a risk to national security.

The head of the Israeli parliamentary committee on defense and foreign affairs, Yuval Steinitz, says the government should place Vanunu in administrative detention. Mr. Steinitz says the interview given by Vanunu constitutes a flagrant breach of the conditions for his release.

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