URGENT Vanunu Found Guilty of Treason And Espionage
Mar. 24, 1988
JERUSALEM (AP) _ An Israeli court on Thursday convicted Mordechai Vanunu of treason and espionage, climaxing the saga of the former nuclear technician who said he revealed his country's nuclear secrets for the good of mankind.
The verdict was read behind closed doors in a courtroom with boarded-up windows, amid the same tight security that accompanied the trial since it began in September. The three-judge panel had refused an open trial, saying it would harm state security.
Prosecutor Uzi Chasson emerged from the session to say Vanunu was convicted of all charges against him and that sentencing arguments were taking place.
The charges against the 34-year-old Vanunu carry a maximum death penalty. However, prosecutors have said previously they would demand a life sentence.
The defense plans to appeal the verdict to Israel's High Court of Justice.
Vanunu, a former technician at Israel's nuclear facility in Dimona and a Jewish-born convert to Christianity, was charged with treason and espionage for revealing his country's nuclear secrets to The Sunday Times of London.
Based on Vanunu's information, the newspaper concluded Israel had stockpiled the world's sixth largest nuclear arsenal. Israel has never responded directly to allegations of its nuclear capacity, saying only it would not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.
Vanunu has insisted he made his revelations to alert the Middle East and the world to the dangers of nuclear weapons. The state says he harmed Israel's security.
Vanunu's mysterious saga began in 1985 when he was fired from the Dimona nuclear center in southern Israel, where he worked for nine years.
He went to Australia, where he became acquainted with a priest and converted to Christianity.
Vanunu later traveled to London, but disappeared in October 1986, just days before The Sunday Times published his revelations. Israeli officials acknowledged several weeks later he was in custody in Israel.
Details of Vanunu's dramatic journey back to Israel were revealed by his brother, Meir, who said Vanunu was lured from London to Rome by an American woman named Cindy, who promised him sex. In Rome, he was abducted by Israeli agents and spirited home, Meir said.
At a pre-trial court appearance, Vanunu managed to flash reporters a message scribbled on his hand which told of the alleged abduction. The incident led to increased security precautions.