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Israel Spy Out of Solitary Lockup

March 12, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel ended Mordechai Vanunu’s solitary confinement Thursday, allowing the spy to meet other prisoners for the first time in 12 years, his lawyer said.

Attorney Avigdor Feldman also said there 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.

The former technician at Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona handed over photographs from inside the plant to the newspaper. Based on that information, nuclear experts said Israel has the world’s sixth-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Israeli security services have argued that Vanunu, 43, must be kept segregated from other prisoners 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 Supreme Court, the Haaretz newspaper said.

Feldman also credited international pressure for the policy shift. Several human rights groups and foreign leaders, including the prime minister of Norway, have taken up Vanunu’s case.

The Justice Ministry told the Supreme Court that Vanunu would retain his own cell, where he has been held in isolation, but will be allowed to leave it during the day, meet other prisoners and invite them to his cell if he wishes.

Feldman said Thursday he spoke to Vanunu by telephone, and Vanunu confirmed that he had just left his cell and paid his first visit to other wings of the jail, where he spoke to other prisoners for the first time.

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.

In April, Vanunu will have served two-thirds of his sentence, and is up for early release. Feldman said he has sensed misgivings among Israeli 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,″ the lawyer said.

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