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Issue #1496      6 April 2011

The story of two whistleblowers

I think that it is wonderful that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are getting good publicity and support for their great efforts exposing the lies and deceptions of the USA, Israel and others. But I also would like to draw attention to the fate of two Israeli whistleblowers and political prisoners held in Israel, Mordechai Vanunu and Anat Kam.

In 1986, Vanunu took a courageous moral stand against nuclear weapons. Vanunu exposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons arsenal to the world after becoming disillusioned with his work at Dimona Nuclear Research Centre in Israel. The information revealed Israel had hundreds of advanced nuclear warheads (the sixth largest stockpile in the world).

His brave actions led to him being kidnapped by Israeli Mossad agents in Italy and transported back to Israel where he was charged with espionage and treason and convicted in a secret trial. Vanunu’s abduction was a violation of Italian and international law. For this “crime” he spent 18 years in jail, with over 11 years of it in solitary confinement in a six metre square cell under constant camera observation. Conditions that Amnesty International described as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.

Vanunu was released from prison in 2004, but Israeli authorities imposed a strict military supervision order on him. Under this order Vanunu is banned from meeting journalists, supporters and foreigners, can’t use phones or the Internet, go near foreign embassies, ports or airports or move address without informing the police. Vanunu is also subject to continuous police surveillance, his internal movements are confined to Jerusalem and he is forbidden to leave Israel.

These Israeli restrictions deny Vanunu’s rights to freedom of expression, movement and association. Amnesty International said that as Vanunu has served his full sentence, these limitations are a breach of international law. He has been rearrested and jailed several times since 2004 for breaching these regulations. For instance, in mid-2010 Vanunu spent another three months in solitary confinement in prison in central Israel.

Vanunu has served his prison time and under international law he is entitled to his liberty. But he is still a political prisoner living in captivity and under constant risk of further detention in prison. He is entitled to a life free of Israel’s repressive rules.

Also, a former Israeli soldier Anat Kam, 24, has been under house arrest for a year, since she was charged with espionage and intent to harm state security in January 2010. In Israel, these charges carry a punishment of life in prison.

While doing her national service Anat Kam was a clerk for an Israeli general. She made copies of about 2,000 documents, including hundreds of top secret ones, which Kam then leaked to an Israeli reporter in November 2008. Some of the documents revealed war crimes, such as Israeli officials authorising the killing of Palestinian militants in Israeli army operations when they could have been simply arrested. These killings breached an Israeli High Court judgment that ruled militants must be arrested whenever possible.

Kam stated that she took the top secret papers to ensure that, “if and when the war crimes the IDF was and is committing in the West Bank are examined then I would have evidence to present…I thought by exposing these materials I would make a change… it was important to me to bring the IDF’s policy to the public knowledge.”

In a recent plea bargain, the charges were lessened to collecting and passing on secret information. This means that although she won’t get a life sentence, Kam still faces a long prison term, with a punishment of up to 15 years in jail. While prosecutors are pushing for a sentence of nine years her lawyers are asking for community service or probation. Anat Kam remains under house arrest until her court sentencing.

I urge everyone concerned about Vanunu and Kam’s plight do whatever you can do to support these courageous people. Demand that Israel stop punishing Vanunu, respect his human rights, lift the unjust regulations and give Vanunu genuine freedom, including the liberty to travel and to leave Israel. And demand that Israel set Anat Kam free unconditionally.   

Next article – Culture & Life: Japan’s tragedy – a wake-up call

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