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Israel To Release Spy Vanunu

March 12, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel has decided to release nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu from solitary confinement and move him into a cell with other prisoners, his lawyer said today.

The Justice Ministry had no comment today. The Haaretz daily said the ministry was expected to make a formal announcement concerning Vanunu’s move out of solitary later in the day or Friday, ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the case.

Vanunu’s lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said there also was a possibility that Vanunu would be released altogether once he has completed serving two-thirds of his 18-year sentence next month.

Vanunu, who was convicted of treason for giving information about Israel’s nuclear program to The Sunday Times of London, has been held in isolation since 1986.

Israeli security services have argued that Vanunu, 43, must be kept isolated so he cannot pass on information about Israel’s nuclear program.

The attorney general and Justice Ministry officials decided to release Vanunu from isolation because they felt the security argument would not stand up before the high court, Haaretz said.

Feldman said he was told by government officials that a decision had been made to move Vanunu out of isolation very soon. The lawyer said he didn’t believe his client would be in any danger of being attacked by other prisoners.

He said the government apparently changed its position, in part, because of international pressure. Several human rights groups and foreign leaders, including the prime minister of Norway, have taken up Vanunu’s case, he said.

The isolation has also left its mark on Vanunu, Feldman said.

``Isolation can have an impact on mental stability, and there is a possibility that such an impact occurred,″ Feldman told The Associated Press.

Feldman said he has sensed misgivings among government officials about the harsh way in which his client has been treated. ``I wouldn’t say it’s a totally fantastic possibility that he would be released,″ Feldman said.

Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona, gave photographs from inside the plant to The Sunday Times of London. Based on the information, nuclear experts said Israel has the world’s sixth-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

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