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Israel Says Nuclear Whistleblower Violated Gag Order

An Israeli court has convicted a former nuclear technician of violating a gag order for speaking with foreign journalists. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem the case goes back more than 20 years and exposed Israel's nuclear secrets to the world.

Mordechai Vanunu was back in court - convicted of violating a court-imposed gag order by speaking with foreign journalists. Vanunu was also found guilty of attempting to leave Jerusalem through the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

In 1986 Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he gave an interview to a British newspaper detailing his duties at Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor, where he said Israel produced 40 kilograms of plutonium for use in hydrogen and neutron bombs. Since he was released from prison he has been banned from leaving Israel or speaking with foreigners.

His lawyers say he will appeal Monday's verdict. Leaving court a defiant Vanunu called the verdict a blow to democracy, saying information about Israel's nuclear program is widely known, and there is no reason not to let him leave the country.

"Everything is published here," he said. "All the bombs that Israel refuses to accept and admit that they have the bomb - they are here."

Israel's policy of so-called "strategic ambiguity" means that it neither admits nor denies possessing nuclear weapons. Based on Vanunu's revelations more than 20 years ago, nuclear experts concluded that Israel possessed hundreds of warheads, making it the sixth-largest nuclear power in the world.