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Speech by the Hon. Anthony Albansese MP
to the Australian House of Representatives

Thursday, May 13th, 2004

Human Rights: Mr Mordechai Vanunu

10.49 a.m.: I wish to use this opportunity to raise the human rights of Mordechai Vanunu, the whistleblower who exposed Israel's nuclear program in the 1980's and who was recently released from prison after serving 18 years.

The Vanunu family migrated to Israel in 1963. Mordechai Vanunu was a good Israeli citizen who served his time in the Israeli army. He then went on to study philosophy and worked for 10 years as a mid-level technician at Machon 2, a top- secret underground bunker complex at Dimona in the Negev Desert which built components for nuclear weapons. Vanunu expressed dissent as to what was occurring there. He was given a warning, and then in November 1986 he was made redundant. He took with him photographs of the inside of the factory.

He became a backpacker and travelled through Asia down to Australia, where he became associated with Australians at the
St John's church in Darlinghurst and met Reverend David Smith — a friend of mine and former Marrickville citizen of the year who is known as `Fighting Father Dave', who serves at Dulwich Hill.

Vanunu then travelled to London and gave his story to the Sunday Times. In Leicester Square he met an American woman, `Cindy', who befriended him and persuaded him to travel with her to Rome. It turned out that she was a Mossad agent, and whilst in Rome on 30 September 1986 Vanunu was overpowered, assaulted, drugged, kidnapped and smuggled back to Israel unconscious on a boat.

He was brought to court for a secret trial. Israel had maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying that it possessed nuclear weapons. It was protected from scrutiny by the United States and its allies. Vanunu's evidence showed the world that Israel had developed between 100 and 200 atomic bombs and had gone on to develop neutron bombs and thermonuclear weapons.

He was found guilty of treason and espionage and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, served at a prison in the southern Israeli town of Ashkalon. He was held in solitary confinement for eleven and a half years. His cell was six feet by nine feet with no windows. His request for parole was denied at least six times, but he was finally released on 21 April this year.

However, his punishment continues. Avraham Poraz, Israel's minister of the interior, has issued an order forbidding Vanunu from leaving the country for one year after his release. Also, Major General Yair Naveh, head of the Home Front Command of the Israeli Defence Force, citing quite extraordinarily the Defence (Emergency) Regulations from the British mandate period of 1946 prior to the formation of Israel, which were subsequently incorporated into Israeli law, has ordered Vanunu not to speak with anyone about his employment within the Dimona program. He is also prohibited from approaching foreign embassies or consulates or conversing with non-Israelis.

These restrictions are in force for six months and are renewable. Vanunu's lawyers are contesting these restrictions, which were provided for when Vanunu was originally trialed and punished. This is a fundamental violation of due process. In support of these new restrictions, Israeli officials have cited national security concerns, but who could believe that information held by a junior technician 18 years ago continues to be relevant?

The double standards in this are astonishing. At a time when the world has gone to war over weapons of mass destruction, this individual was gaoled for 18 years and held in solitary confinement for eleven years for exposing the reality of weapons of mass destruction being held in Israel. It is believed today that Israel has the world's sixth largest nuclear arsenal, with small tactical nuclear weapons, nuclear landmines and medium-range nuclear missiles launchable from air, land or sea.

It is quite clear that Mr Vanunu is not safe where he is at the moment. This is not a sectarian issue. This should be of concern to all those who have an interest in nuclear non-proliferation. Israel is one of the three countries in the world that has refused to sign up to the non-proliferation treaty. It is important that all people of goodwill, apart from sectarian issues, defend Mr Vanunu's right to human rights. I congratulate Reverend Dave Smith and will be working with him to ensure that those rights are upheld.

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