JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Supreme Court Sunday rejected former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu’s appeal of his conviction for treason and espionage resulting from his leaks about Israel’s nuclear weapons program to a London newspaper.
The three-judge panel announced their decision, but it was read behind closed doors in keeping with the secrecy surrounding Vanunu’s case since he was arrested in 1986 after disappearing in London.
The judges did not make public their reasons for rejecting the appeal.
The case received international attention because Vanunu claimed he had been drugged and kidnapped by Israeli agents just before publication of articles in The Sunday Times of London based on his disclosures.
The newspaper reported that Israel had stockpiled 100 nuclear weapons and had the ability to make atomic, neutron and hydrogen bombs. It said this arsenal made Israel the world’s sixth largest nuclear power.
Israel has never responded directly to allegations about its nuclear capacity, but has said it will not be the first country to introduce atomic weapons into the Middle East.
Israeli officials refused to disclose how Vanunu was brought to Israel but said no British laws were broken.
Vanunu’s brother, Meir, said Vanunu was lured from London to Rome by an American woman who promised him sex. In Rome, he was abducted by Israeli agents and spirited home, Meir said.
Vanunu, 36, a former technician at Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona, was convicted in March 1988 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In his appeal, Vanunu maintained that speaking to a newspaper does not constitute espionage or treason.
During his trial, Vanunu testified he made his revelations to the newspaper to alert the Middle East and the world to the dangers of nuclear weapons, not for personal gain or out of a desire to harm his country.
The maximum punishment for the treason and espionage charges is life, but the judges took into account Vanunu’s indications that he regretted his actions.
Vanunu was brought to the Supreme Court Sunday in a white van with the windows covered so he could not be seen by photographers or reporters.
The Supreme Court said it would hear arguments within 30 days on whether to make public its full decision on Vanunu’s appeal.
Vanunu also has 30 days to appeal the decision to a larger Supreme Court panel or ask for a reduction in his sentence.
He has 14 years left to serve since his time in jail before his conviction was counted as time served. He is jailed in the Ashkelon Prison in a private cell.
The three judges who rejected the appeal were Meir Shamgar, Dov Levin and Eliezer Goldberg.