Petition to free Mordechai Vanunu
By Mervyn Murchie
Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician who worked at Israel's Dimona nuclear establishment, was kidnapped by Israel's secret police, Mossad, on September 30, 1986. He was condemned to 18 years' jail for revealing that Israel produces nuclear weapons. The Australian Campaign to Free Vanunu has been campaigning for his release since 1987.
In October 1997, Vivienne Porzsolt, representing the group, was part of an international delegation which demonstrated outside Ashkelon Prison in Israel, where Vanunu is jailed. They joined Israelis and Palestinians calling for his release after serving 11 years in solitary confinement.
On March 4, 1998, Labor Senator Margaret Reynolds moved a resolution in the Australian Senate, which had already been adopted by the European Parliament, calling on Israeli authorities to end Vanunu's solitary confinement and consider his early release. The resolution was carried.
Vanunu became eligible for parole on April 21, 1998, and was released from solitary. However, Vanunu was recently returned to solitary confinement following a disturbance between Vanunu and prisoners who objected to his refusal to observe religious rituals.
Another vigil was held outside Ashkelon Prison on September 17-24. Irma Trnka, representing the Australian campaign, joined the international delegation.
The Australian Campaign to Free Vanunu has launched a petition for Vanunu's release. It is collecting signatures until the end of September, the 13th anniversary of his kidnapping. The petition, directed to the newly elected Israeli government headed by Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak, will be distributed widely among the public, trade unions and church organisations.
The text of the petition states:
Mr Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel,
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, call on your government to revoke the sentence of Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli citizen and prisoner of conscience, now serving a term of 18 years in Ashkelon Prison.
Vanunu was kidnapped from Rome in 1986 to stand trial in Israel for revealing information about Israel's nuclear program. He spent 12 years of his sentence in solitary confinement; and we remind you that Amnesty International condemned his treatment as "cruel, inhumane and degrading". The consequent damage to his mind and body is of concern to all.
Vanunu is overdue for parole, poses no security risk and is the cause of much damage to Israel's reputation among those countries who value human rights. Any further information about Israel's nuclear capacity he might be suspected of holding is long obsolete.
The Australian senate, on behalf of the people, has endorsed the resolutions of the European Parliament calling for an end to Mordechai Vanunu's imprisonment.
We, the undersigned, add our plea to theirs.
Copies of the petition can be obtained by phoning (02) 9929 5839, or by writing to 40 Euroka Street, North Sydney 2060. Completed petitions should be returned c/- St John's Church, 120 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst 2010, before September 15.