MORDECHAI VANUNU was jailed for 18 years for exposing the truth about Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme. He is due to be released a week next Wednesday after serving the full sentence. In 1986 Vanunu revealed to the Sunday Times that Israel had produced some 200 nuclear warheads, making it the world's sixth largest nuclear power.
Vanunu's punishment was brutal. Lured to Rome by a female Mossad agent he met in London's West End, he was drugged and transported back to Israel. After a secret trial, he was sentenced to 18 years for treason and espionage. Twelve of those years were spent in solitary confinement.
There are disturbing rumours that, even if released, Vanunu will be placed under some kind of house arrest and denied contact with the media and his supporters. The official reason would be that he still possesses classified information, either concerning Israel's nuclear programme or his abduction. However, his nuclear information is 20 years old and the whole world knows about the kidnapping.
The truth is that Mordechai could prove an embarrassment to the Israeli government and their paymasters in Washington. Under the terms of Senator Symington's amendment to the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, the US is not supposed to provide aid to any country engaged in the production of nuclear weapons.
The legislation exempted any country whose involvement in the transfer or sale of nuclear materials began prior to its enactment. Nevertheless the last thing the US government wants, particularly in Bush's re-election year, is for Israel's weapons of mass destruction to be highlighted.