Friday, April 11, 2008

Vanunu asks for asylum again, answers questions

Aftenposten, Norway, April 11, 2008

Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has asked for asylum in Norway for a second time, Norwegian officials said on Friday, but there appears to be little chance it will be granted.

Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu flashes a peace sign during his detention at Tel Aviv's Magistrate Court in November of 2005.

PHOTO: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

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Vanunu, whom Israeli authorities have prevented from leaving Israel, sent his application directly to Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. His first asylum application to Norway in 2004 was rejected.

"We received it yesterday and it has been sent to the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion, which will handle it," a spokeswoman for the prime minister's office said.

Vanunu was convicted of treason and imprisoned for 18 years after informing a British newspaper in 1986 about his work as a technician at Israel's main atomic reactor. The disclosures cracked the secrecy around the assumed Israeli nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Vanunu answered readers' questions to newspaper Aftenposten's internet edition in real-time on Friday afternoon.

Many of the readers expressed their admiration for Vanunu, while some questioned his motives in uncovering the Israeli nuclear program.

Vanunu replied that his motive was to prevent nuclear war in the Middle East and to "expose secret cooperation between Norway and other European states and the US to help Israel produce nuclear weapons in secret, and the use of atomic weapons in Israel for continued occupation and war in the Middle East."

Vanunu was released from prison in 2004, but has not been allowed to leave Israel. In 2007, he was sentenced to six months in prison for violating his parole.

Norwegian daily Dagsavisen on Friday cited an Israeli diplomat as saying that giving Vanunu asylum would be considered interference in Israel's internal affairs and a "sign of the generally anti-Israeli sentiment in Norway".

Israel neither confirms nor denies having the Middle East's only nuclear weapons under a policy of "strategic ambiguity."

Vanunu has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

REUTERS/Aftenposten English Web Desk

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