Newly Freed Nuclear Spy Wants To Live In the US

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Israel's nuclear facility who sold state nuclear secrets to a British newspaper in 1986, was freed from prison on Wednesday after serving 18 years for treason.

As he left the Shikma prison in Ashkelon, Vanunu flashed a double victory sign and waved at several hundred supporters. He then climbed on the gate of the prison and tried to clasp hands with some of those supporters. His release also drew a huge media presence.

Two British parliamentarians and British actress Susannah York, who has been corresponding with Vanunu for 12 years, are among the international anti-nuclear activists who came to Israel to applaud Vanunu's release. But Vanunu has very few supporters in Israel, because most Israelis consider him a traitor.

Fearing further damage to Israel's security, the government has slapped a number of restrictions on Vanunu -- forbidding him to travel abroad or to talk to foreigners or even approach foreign embassies.

Vanunu blew the lid off of Israel's policy of ambiguity, in which Israel neither confirmed nor denied its possession of nuclear weapons, when he gave dozens of pictures and two-days of interviews to the London Sunday Times in 1986.

Israeli agents lured him to Rome, where he was kidnapped and whisked away to Israel for a secret trial, convicted of treason and sentenced to more than 17 years in prison - the first 11 of them in solitary confinement.

Vanunu, who was born in Morocco in 1954 and immigrated to Israel with his family in 1963, refused to speak to reporters in Hebrew on Wednesday. He said that as long as the government prevented him from talking to foreigners, he would not speak Hebrew.

In broken English, Vanunu called on President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin to force Israel to speak about its nuclear secrets.

He said he would continue his pursuit of a nuclear-free world. He called for Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona, in southern Israel, to be opened for international inspection.

"I am proud and happy to do what I did," Vanunu said. "I will continue to speak against all kind of nuclear weapons...I don't have any more secrets. They [Israel] have nothing to fear from me."

Vanunu said he wanted to move to the U.S. to study and teach history. A convert to Christianity - shortly before he broke his agreement not to reveal state secrets in 1986 - Vanunu said he would go to "give thanks" to Jesus at St. George's Anglican church in eastern Jerusalem.

Vanunu said he had suffered for 18 years because he was a Christian, and he repeated his earlier statements that there was no need for a Jewish state.