Mordechai Vanunu

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Mordechai Vanunu (2009)

Mordechai Vanunu ( Hebrew מרדכי ואנונו, Born October 13, 1954 in Marrakech ) is an Israeli nuclear engineer .

In 1986 he revealed the existence of Israel's nuclear research program, which had been kept secret until then, and thus evidence of the country's nuclear armament .


Vanunu grew up as one of twelve children of a devout Jewish - Moroccan family who emigrated from Morocco to Israel in 1963. His father was a rabbi in Beer Sheva . After his military service Vanunu studied for a year physics before he had to stop the study for financial reasons. From 1976 on he worked as a night shift controller in the Dimona Nuclear Research Center in the Negev , 90 km south of Jerusalem, which the Israeli government had long kept secret .

In addition, he attended philosophy courses at the University of Beersheba, switching from the political right to the extreme left: he took part in political courses of the Israeli communists and eventually joined their party. As a loner, however, he found no friends there, and a love affair also failed. In December 1985 he was dismissed in Dimona with 180 other workers and decided to make a trip around the world. He visited several Asian countries. During a trip to Australia in 1986 he converted to Christianity .

Revelations about Israel's nuclear program, kidnapping and imprisonment

Soon after, he went public with the claim that Israel had become a nuclear power . He first contacted the Daily Mirror , whose publisher Robert Maxwell forwarded the photographs to Israel.

Even before the London Sunday Times published Vanunus notes with his photos in an article on October 5, 1986 after a thorough examination by the British atomic expert Frank Barnaby , Vanunu was followed on September 30, 1986 by the Israeli agent Cheryl Ben Tov ( "Cindy" ) Lured to Rome , kidnapped by the Mossad there , passed out with an injection and then brought to Israel by ship in diplomatic baggage. The kidnapping took place without the consent of the host country Italy.

For six weeks the Israeli government denied knowing anything about Vanunu's whereabouts, until Vanunu managed to get a message to journalists from a police bus by secretly writing a message on the palm of his hand - “Vanunu M - was hijacked - in Rome ITL - 9/30/86 - came to Rome - by BA Fly 504 “- held against the window pane. Because of treason and espionage , he was sentenced on 24 March 1988 18 years in prison, of which he about 11 years in a solitary confinement in shikma prison in Ashkelon spent.

Since his release from prison

On April 21, 2004, Vanunu was released under strict conditions. Among other things, he is not allowed to leave Israel, is not allowed to approach a foreign embassy and has to give an account of any planned change of location. In addition, he is not allowed to use the Internet or cell phones, and any contact with foreign journalists is prohibited. Despite the conditions, he has already given over 100 interviews, which is why he was arrested several times. He currently lives in the guest house of St. George's Basilica in Jerusalem.

On November 11, 2004, Haaretz reported the arrest of Vanunu. He passed on secret information. However, he was released again, but the strict conditions were extended for another year. In addition, 21 counts were brought against him in connection with his re-arrest.

On July 2, 2007, an Israeli court ruled that Vanunu must be returned to prison for six months. He was already found guilty in April of having had contact with foreigners and thereby violating the requirements of the judiciary. He appealed and his sentence was reduced to three months.

Mordechai Vanunu was arrested again on December 28, 2009, and was released into house arrest the next day .

Because of the 2007 conviction, he was sentenced to three months in prison on May 23, 2010. He was given a choice of three months in jail or doing community service. Vanunu wanted to do the charitable work in the Arab east part of Jerusalem, because he felt threatened by attacks from angry Israelis in the Jewish-populated west part of Jerusalem. He was forbidden to do so, so he was sentenced to three months in prison on May 23, 2010.

In May 2015 he married his long-time partner Kristin Joachimsen, a Norwegian theology professor, in the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem . He had already been arrested in 2007 and 2010 because of his contact with her, because the authorities saw it as a violation of his probation requirements. In 2005, Norway's government rejected his application for political asylum on the grounds of foreign policy interests, as did Sweden in 2004. In the spring of 2015, Vanunu's application to leave Israel in order to be able to live with his wife, who works in Oslo, was rejected by the Israeli authorities after his conditions were extended by a further year. An interview with the Israeli television broadcaster Kanal 2, in which he drew attention to his situation - after he had previously avoided the Israeli media - led to a police investigation in September 2015 at the instigation of the secret service Shin Bet and ultimately to another judicial punishment with a week House arrest.


In 1987 he received the Right Livelihood Award , in 2001 the University of Tromsø in Norway awarded him an honorary doctorate and in 2002 he received the Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category "Resistance". In December 2004 he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In December 2010, Vanunu should be awarded the Carl von Ossietzky Medal by the International League for Human Rights . But since he was not allowed to leave Israel, there was a protest instead of the ceremony in Berlin, which at the same time kicked off the campaign for nuclear disarmament (nuclear weapon-free zones). For this purpose, Joachim Johow composed a piece of music, which had its world premiere on December 12, 2010. Previously, several Nobel Prize winners (including Mairead Corrigan -Maguire, Günter Grass ) and Nina Hagen had approached the Israeli government with an urgent request to allow Vanunu to leave the country.

Vanunu Law

In 1998 the “Vanunu Law” was passed in Israel, which allows the prison authorities to open letters addressed to members of parliament. This was previously prohibited because of their immunity .


  • Cohen, Yoel: The Vanunu Affair: Israel's Secret Nuclear Potential . Palmyra, Heidelberg 1995, ISBN 3-930378-03-5
  • Cohen, Yoel: The Whistleblower of Dimona: Israel, Dimona & the Bomb . Holmes & Meier, New York 2003, ISBN 0-8419-1432-X
  • Hounam, Peter: The Woman from Mossad: The Torment of Mordechai Vanunu . Frog, 2000, ISBN 1-58394-005-7

Web links

Commons : Mordechai Vanunu  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Guardian profile: Mordechai Vanunu. In: The Guardian of April 16, 2004, accessed September 17, 2018.
  2. Erich Follath : The Phantom of Dimona . In: Der Spiegel , issue 5 from January 26, 2004, p. 110 ff.
  3. Annabel Wahba: Proud Public Enemy , Der Tagesspiegel , April 24, 2004.
  4. ^ Kahana, Historical of Dictionary Israeli Intelligence, Scarecrow Press 2006, pp. XXXV
  5. ^ Atomic expert Vanunu arrested again , Der Standard , December 29, 2009
  6. ^ Israeli Police Arrest Nuclear Whistleblower Vanunu , Reuters , December 29, 2009
  7. ^ Vanunu arrested for meeting foreigners . In: Jewish Telegraphic Agency .
  8. SonntagsZeitung : Israeli atomic researcher Vanunu faces three months' imprisonment Article from May 24, 2010
  9. Haaretz : 'Shame on you, democracy,' Vanunu yells as he returns to prison (English) article from May 24, 2010
  10. Amnesty International : Israeli government urged not to jail nuclear whistleblower again press release of May 12, 2010
  11. ^ A b Israeli nuke activist marries Norwegian love. In: The Local (Norway) of May 20, 2015, accessed November 26, 2015
  12. Norway rejects Vanunu's asylum request. In: Ynet news from April 15, 2005, accessed November 26, 2015 (English)
  13. Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in prison, will not be granted exit visa under unique release conditions. ( Memento from September 30, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) In: i24news from May 23, 2015, accessed on November 26, 2015 (English)
  14. Police probe nuclear spy Vanunu over Israeli TV interview. In: Times of Israel, September 9, 2015, accessed November 26, 2015.
  15. Mordechai Vanunu placed under house arrest after giving TV interview. In: The Guardian of September 10, 2015, accessed November 26, 2015.
  16. For the first time in 49 years, the Carl von Ossietzky Medal was NOT awarded. Mordechai Vanunu is not allowed to travel to Berlin (PDF; 32 kB), International League for Human Rights , press release of December 8, 2010
  18. "The Dove for Mordechai Vanunu" (Wolfram Beyer & I felici) ( Memento from July 7, 2012 in the web archive ). Retrieved December 19, 2010
  19. Nobel laureates urge Israel to let Vanunu receive int'l rights award , Haaretz 20 November, 2010