Vanunu released: What nuke whistleblower doesn’t know scares Israel

April 21, 2004

CONTENTS

1. Why aren't trendy actors crying "Free John Vassall, Free Geoffrey Prime"?
2. "I am a hero"
3. Luxury living, paid for by the Sunday Times of London?
4. A contemporary version of "The Passion"?
5. Why not mention Sabra and Chatila?
6. Who are John Vassall and Geoffrey Prime?
7. Frightened as much by what Vanunu doesn't know
8. Vanunu's entrapper "Cindy" at home in suburban Florida
9. Free after 18 years, proud of his actions
10. The Jerusalem Post: Vanunu continues to damage Israel as a propagandist
11. Ha'aretz: The odd sect of radicals and journalists around Vanunu

 

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

WHY AREN'T TRENDY ACTORS CRYING "FREE JOHN VASSALL, FREE GEOFFREY PRIME"?

Mordechai Vanunu, whom most Israelis and many others regard as the worst kind of traitor (one whose actions may have increased the likelihood of his country being destroyed) was released today to the cheers of hundreds of foreign supporters (including actors, British MPs, and many dozens of foreign journalists) who had traveled all the way to Ashkelon, southern Israel, for the event. (One Ashkelon resident, taken aback by the number of paparazzi there, told Israeli TV "It's like Elvis has come to Ashkelon.")

Vanunu is being described as an-anti nuclear activist. This is wrong. He protested the destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, and has continued to protest this.

One of the groups organizing a counter-demonstration outside the prison was the Israeli-based organization the "British Israel Group," who organized a protest "against the international hypocrites."

Their signs read: 'Where were these 'activists' when traitors who revealed the military secrets of their countries were released from prison? Were they waiting outside the prison gates? No. They ignored the event completely."

"Where were they when Admiralty Clerk John Vassall was released after 18 years in jail? Vassall worked for the KGB, passing them UK military secrets. Were these activists outside the prison welcoming him on his release? Of course not."

"What about Geoffrey Prime, an RAF Sergeant who joined GCHQ in 1968. In 1983 he was sentenced to 35 years for espionage. Are these 'activists' mounting a campaign for his early release? Of course not. So why do they praise treason in Israel but ignore it their own countries?"

 

"I AM A HERO"

In a new interview shown last Saturday on Israeli television, Vanunu reiterated his belief that Israel should not exist, that Judaism is a "backward religion," and that efforts should be redoubled to create a Palestinian state rather than Israel.

In fact Vanunu held these views before he relayed what he claimed were Israel's nuclear secrets to the Sunday Times of London in 1986. Vanunu, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew, had also already converted to Christianity in 1985, as a protest against his parents and after being fired as a mid-level Dimona technician.

Vanunu added in the interview: "The whole world regards me as a hero... It's only in Israel where thousands of people regard me as a traitor."

In fact it is likely that only a mix of trendy actors and playwrights (Julie Christie, Emma Thompson and Harold Pinter were among those who sent messages to coincide with Vanunu's release), and a few others such as Hamas and the PLO, regard Vanunu as a hero.

In what some of his supporters said was a protest against the existence of Israel, Vanunu refused to answer questions in Hebrew, at the impromptu press conference he gave after his release.

 

LUXURY LIVING, PAID FOR BY THE SUNDAY TIMES?

Israel has forbidden Vanunu to leave the country for a year. Although some Western media have stated that it is only Ariel Sharon's government that wanted restrictions placed upon Vanunu, in fact Israeli politicians across the political spectrum, led by Shimon Peres, today welcomed them. (According to opinion polls, over 60 percent of Jewish Israelis opposed Vanunu's release, and over 90 per cent believe restrictions should now be put upon him.)

Vanunu will now live in the luxury Andromeda Hill apartment complex in Jaffa. Richard Caseby, managing editor of the Sunday Times of London, admitted that the newspaper was giving Vanunu "some assistance."

 

A CONTEMPORARY VERION OF "THE PASSION"?

Nick and Mary Eoloff, a Minnesota couple, adopted Vanunu when he was 42 after stories in the American press said he had been disowned by his parents for converting to Christianity. The couple said they also proceeded with the adoption in the mistaken belief that it would provide him with American citizenship.

The Israeli paper Ha'aretz says that a few of Vanunu's Christian supporters regard Vanunu's suffering and persecution as a kind of contemporary "Passion."

Upon his release, Vanunu went in a motorcade straight to Jerusalem in order to pray. In Jerusalem, he was embraced by clergy as the (Palestinian) Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, escorted him into the church.

 

LET'S THROW IN SABRA AND CHATILA

In one of its articles today on Vanunu, The Independent (of London) - which rarely misses a chance to mention its favorite massacre - managed to mention the Sabra and Chatila massacres in 1982 in the opening paragraph (without of course mentioning that they were not perpetrated by Israel). Some may find strange the Independent's need to add this into any story on Vanunu.

 

WHO ARE JOHN VASSALL AND GEOFFREY PRIME?

You may be forgiven for asking who John Vassall and Geoffrey Prime are. That is because the media all but ignores them, and dozens of other people imprisoned in many other countries for espionage and treason. By contrast, it regularly features articles about Vanunu. Today, even though at least 68 Iraqis (including an estimated 20 school children) died in four bomb attacks in Basra, and there were two major terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, BBC World Service radio (which has an audience approaching a billion people) carried no fewer than 6 reports connected to Vanunu within a single one hour news hour program (a program the base of which is repeated several times a day). (This compared to one report each from Iraq and Saudi Arabia.)

Other media too are having a Vanunu-frenzy. For example, The Guardian published several pieces on Vanunu today, including a selection of Vanunu's correspondence with British actress Susannah York.

A CNN camera crew was detained by Israeli police today after it decided to try and spy on Israel's Dimona plant. There are at least 32 extremely bloody conflicts occurring at present in the world, including a genocide perpetrated by Arab militias against Black African Christians in the Sudan, which CNN and the BBC are barely covering.

-- Tom Gross


I attach five articles concerning Vanunu's release, with summaries first.

SUMMARIES

FRIGHTENED AS MUCH BY WHAT VANUNU DOESN'T KNOW

(Tom Gross writes:) The report below by Reuters points out that the Israeli authorities are concerned as much by what Vanunu doesn't know as of what he knows - i.e. the possibility that, under the weight of his own resentment and the pressure of anti-nuke lobbies and book deals, he will invent new "revelations" about Israel's non-conventional capabilities. There are plenty of Israeli precedents for this - such as Victor Ostrovsky and Ari Ben-Menashe, who "exposed" the Mossad and Irangate respectively, as well as others -- i.e. people who used their past official functions as platforms for falsity.

"What nuke whistleblower doesn't know scares Israel" (By Dan Williams, Reuters, April 16, 2004). "... Now Israeli policy makers fear the 49-year-old whistleblower could emerge from prison with new claims about his work at the Dimona reactor and that fantasy may be as harmful as fact. "Who will guarantee that he will only speak the truth? What is to stop him imagining things?" Shabtai Shavit, a former chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, told Reuters.

Keen to ward off Middle East foes while avoiding regional arms races, Israel maintains a "strategic ambiguity" over its nuclear programme... The official Israeli reticence means a ready audience for individuals claiming to have been privy to national secrets... Israeli officials say that is how false reports got into newspapers that Israel had tested nuclear-type missiles in the Indian Ocean and that it tried at one time to develop a bomb that could target Arabs based on their genes.

... The last convicted Israeli traitor to go free was Marcus Klingberg, who was jailed for 20 years for passing the Soviet Union information about his research on biological and chemical weapons at a secret plant outside Tel Aviv. Klingberg, 85, moved in with relatives in France last year and avoids the public eye.

By contrast, Vanunu has been disavowed by many family members and is far from retiring. In prison letters, he has said he wants to emigrate, start a family, and lecture on American history... "Mordechai is not crazy, but he is very angry and sometimes suffers from notions that there is a vast Israeli conspiracy against him, all around," said Vanunu's brother, Meir..." [Full article below.]

 

VANUNU'S ENTRAPPER "CINDY" AT HOME IN SUBURBAN FLORIDA

[I attach this story as a matter of interest, even though several aspects of the reporting on this matter, which I will not outline here, are inaccurate - TG]

"History catches up with Mossad seductress who trapped Vanunu. How 'Cindy' the sex spy found a new life at an exclusive Orlando golf suburb." (The Independent, UK, April 21, 2004)

"Cheryl Hanin, the agent who back in 1986 seduced Mordechai Vanunu in London, then lured him to Rome and into the hands of Mossad, who drugged him and smuggled him back to Israel, turns out to be alive, well, married and distinctly prosperous in Alaqua, Florida.

"... Then, she was an attractive, apparently open, and to Vanunu at least, very friendly 26-year-old. [She now lives in] a dream residential compound for golf lovers, 25 minutes drive north of Orlando. Several hundred homes are spread out in the neighbourhood land, among artificial ponds and dense tropical growth.

"To many Israelis, particularly in the defence and security establishment, Ms Hanin is a heroine who did her patriotic duty by ensnaring in a honeytrap the man who betrayed the country's defence secrets.

"... This is a very different life from the one which prepared her for her last major assignment... when she engineered a meeting with Vanunu in Leicester Square and suggested a coffee, saying she was a beautician on holiday. Next day they met in the Tate gallery and began to see more of each other.

"... Ms Hanin has until recently worked as an estate agent, as does her husband, also a former Mossad operative. Their daughters, aged 12 and 16, speak Hebrew go every year to "the Scouts' camp in Atlanta, which teaches Zionism and has Israeli counsellers, to which Jewish children from all over the US come. The Bentovs are among the generous donors to the camp..." [Full article below.]

 

FREE AFTER 18 YEARS, PROUD OF HIS ACTIONS

"Israel Frees Nuclear Whistleblower" (AP, April 21, 2004) "A defiant Mordechai Vanunu walked out of prison on Wednesday after serving 18 years for spilling Israel's nuclear secrets, saying he was proud of his actions and complaining he was treated cruelly by his jailers. Vanunu, dressed in a checkered shirt and black tie, flashed victory signs and waved to hundreds of cheering supporters as he walked into the sun-splashed courtyard of Shikma Prison in the coastal town of Ashkelon. Dozens of counter-demonstrators booed and shouted epithets.

"In the courtyard, Vanunu, 50, held an impromptu news conference, his brother Meir by his side. Vanunu said he was given "very cruel and barbaric treatment" by Israel's security services. "To all those who are calling me traitor, I am saying I am proud and happy to do what I did," Vanunu said in English. He refused to answer questions in Hebrew.

"... Vanunu, who converted to Christianity in the 1980s, said he was mistreated because of his religion. He also said there is no need for a Jewish state and demanded that Israel open its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspection... He left the prison in a gray Mazda van as police dispersed a large crowd. His first stop was St. George, an Anglican church in Jerusalem's Old City. More than a dozen cars and motorcycles followed Vanunu's vehicle to Jerusalem, and a helicopter flew low overhead.

"... Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, he was mobbed by reporters as the "Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, escorted him into the church. Other clergy members embraced Vanunu, and a tearful Peter Hounam, the journalist who wrote the 1986 article that led to Vanunu's imprisonment, hugged him... activists from around the world had gathered at Shikma in recent days. Among his supporters, was British actress Susannah York and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland. But Vanunu is widely detested in Israel.

"He's hell-bent to do as much harm as he can," Justice Minister Tommy Lapid told The Associated Press. "We will keep an eye on him, we will watch him... We want to know where he is and we want to know whom he may or may not divulge state secrets."...[Full article below.]

 

THE JERUSALEM POST: VANUNU CONTINUES TO DAMAGE ISRAEL AS A PROPAGANDIST

Today's Jerusalem Post editorial (April 21, 2004) (Summary only).

"Yossi Sarid, the former leader of [the far left Israeli political party] Meretz, describes [Mordechai Vanunu] as a pathetic, mentally disturbed man. His advice is to ignore Vanunu to allow the current media feeding frenzy to die with a whimper. We wish we could be as sanguine that Vanunu will disappear from public view. More likely, he will become a handy tool for anti-Israel campaigners, particularly if he is allowed to leave Israel in a year. The cumulative damage he will continue to do to Israel as a propagandist will considerably exceed the damage he caused as a spy....

In the very act of letting him go free, Israel proves wrong Vanunu's contentions about the State of Israel. We do not expect Vanunu or his defenders to take this into account. These are people who are beyond persuasion, animated by rage and undisturbed by fact. But as they make the moral case against Israel, Israel will make the moral case for itself. We trust that fair-minded observers will draw the obvious conclusion. In the case of Vanunu, justice has been served and will sooner or later be recognized."

 

HA'ARETZ: THE ODD SECT OF RADICALS AND JOURNALISTS AROUND VANUNU

Ha'aretz editorial (Summary only)

The government should stop pressuring Mordechai Vanunu, because any further efforts to silence him will only perpetuate his status as a tortured martyr persecuted by the Israeli military establishment... During the last 18 years, a kind of sect has formed around Vanunu. It's an odd, round-the-world coalition of relatives, British journalists and politicians, radical activists, pacifists, pro-Palestinians, and even religious Christians who regard Vanunu's suffering and persecution as a kind of contemporary "Passion."

... In the eyes of his supporters, the conditions of his imprisonment and the obsession about keeping him silent have turned into symbols of an oppressive Israel. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the ongoing over-reaction to Vanunu has damaged Israel much more and longer than the one-time publication in The Sunday Times... What further damage could be caused by someone who has not been privy to any security secrets for the last 20 years?



FULL ARTICLES

WHAT NUKE WHISTLEBLOWER DOESN'T KNOW SCARES ISRAEL

What nuke whistleblower doesn't know scares Israel
By Dan Williams
Reuters
April 16, 2005

With one newspaper interview, Mordechai Vanunu blew away Israel's cherished nuclear secrecy.

Now Israeli policy makers fear the 49-year-old whistleblower could emerge from prison with new claims about his work at the Dimona reactor and that fantasy may be as harmful as fact.

"Who will guarantee that he will only speak the truth? What is to stop him imagining things?" Shabtai Shavit, a former chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, told Reuters.

"The main consideration should be his intent to go on causing damage to Israel," said Shavit, who took part in secret deliberations on keeping Vanunu under surveillance when he ends an 18-year jail term next week.

In statements made through relatives, Vanunu has said he has nothing to add to his 1986 disclosures to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper -- which led analysts to conclude Dimona had produced as many as 200 nuclear bombs and made Israel a military superpower.

A mid-level Dimona technician, Vanunu was fired in 1985 and converted to Christianity. After the Sunday Times interview, he was abducted by Mossad and tried as a traitor.

By all accounts, Vanunu is angry and distraught at his treatment and vowed to continue campaigning to expose Israel's non-conventional capabilities.

Israeli security veterans are worried by this mix of ideology and ire.

Some question the government's decision to keep Vanunu in the country, tap his phone and bar his access to the press for a probationary period after his release.

"I think it is a mistake to gag him," said David Kimche, a retired Mossad operative and Foreign Ministry chief of staff.

"It only bolsters Vanunu's supposed credibility and, in turn, pretty much anything he may choose to concoct about Israel."

Keen to ward off Middle East foes while avoiding regional arms races, Israel maintains a "strategic ambiguity" over its nuclear programme. The policy also allows it to skirt U.S. bans on supporting countries that proliferate non-conventional arms and thus receive $2.8 billion in annual aid from Washington.

The official Israeli reticence means a ready audience for individuals claiming to have been privy to national secrets.

Military censors are empowered by law to block reports that could be seen as a threat to Israel's security -- but only those containing bona-fide information, not invention.

Israeli officials say that is how false reports got into newspapers that Israel had tested nuclear-type missiles in the Indian Ocean and that it tried at one time to develop a bomb that could target Arabs based on their genes.

The legality of what Israel can do is also an issue with Vanunu, who according to security sources was so set on having his say that last year that he rejected early release because it would have meant promising not to discuss Dimona in public.

"Punishing a man who has spilled his secrets and done his time, on the assumption of a future guilt, seems little more than vindictive," said Vanunu's former lawyer Avigdor Feldman.

A Justice Ministry source allowed that, even within the generous parameters of emergency law, the case was problematic.

"There is no double jeopardy when it comes to treason. The non-disclosure contract Vanunu signed at Dimona is still in force. He can be prosecuted if he talks again," the source said.

"But as for him making things up -- our options are more limited. We hope he understands that the ban on him leaving the country is open-ended, and will be lifted based on him showing good faith. After that we can only hope for the best."

The last convicted Israeli traitor to go free was Marcus Klingberg, who was jailed for 20 years for passing the Soviet Union information about his research on biological and chemical weapons at a secret plant outside Tel Aviv.

Klingberg, 85, moved in with relatives in France last year and avoids the public eye.

By contrast, Vanunu has been disavowed by many family members and is far from retiring.

In prison letters, he has said he wants to emigrate, start a family, and lecture on American history. Many believe he will carry psychological scars from his incarceration, 12 years of which were spent in solitary confinement.

"Mordechai is not crazy, but he is very angry and sometimes suffers from notions that there is a vast Israeli conspiracy against him, all around," said Vanunu's brother, Meir.

Critics suggest Vanunu might be tempted to sell his story once outside Israel and maybe even embellish it.

As precedent, Kimche cited "By Way of Deception", a 1990 expose by former Mossad recruit Victor Ostrovsky. Israel went to court to try to stop its publication in Canada. That just boosted sales.

"We made that ridiculous book a best-seller," Kimche said. "Israel should not leverage Vanunu into a similar position."

When Ostrovsky came out with a sequel four years later, a leading Israeli political commentator, Yosef Lapid, called on Canadian Jews to kill him. That prompted international outcry.

Lapid is now Israel's justice minister, and a more moderate voice on Vanunu. Explaining why he talked security chiefs out of placing the whistleblower under house arrest after his release, Lapid said: "We must preserve Israel's democratic essence."

 

HISTORY CATCHES UP WITH MOSSAD SEDUCTRESS WHO TRAPPED VANUNU

History catches up with Mossad seductress who trapped Vanunu
How 'Cindy' the sex spy found a new life at an exclusive Orlando golf suburb. By Donald Macintyre
The Independent (UK)
April 21, 2004

She was the only missing player in the drama which ended in the 18-year incarceration of the man who first told the world Israel had nuclear weapons. But Cheryl Hanin, the agent who back in 1986 seduced Mordechai Vanunu in London, then lured him to Rome and into the hands of Mossad, who drugged him and smuggled him back to Israel, turns out to be alive, well, married and distinctly prosperous in Alaqua, Florida.

If the appetite of the Israeli public needed whetting for a story too improbable for fiction, the country's largest circulation daily has obliged.

On the eve of Mr Vanunu's release from an Israeli prison this morning, Yedhiot Arhronot yesterday painted, in the brightest of colours, a portrait of the woman who persuaded Mr Vanunu she was an American tourist called Cindy and sprang the trap from which Mr Vanunu will escape only when he emerges from Shekma prison in Ashkelon to a welcoming party of wellwishers and the world's press.

Then, she was an attractive, apparently open, and to Vanunu at least, very friendly 26-year-old. Lyrically, the paper described yesterday how 18 years on: "Cheryl, her husband and daughters live today in a private home in the middle of a green and manicured golf course. Cheryl drives in a blue town and country van, her husband drives a shiny Chevy Impala. In the pastoral landscape, white golf carts carrying the residents of the prestigious neighbourhood move about quietly.

"This is a dream residential compound for golf lovers, 25 minutes drive north of Orlando. Several hundred homes are spread out in the neighbourhood land, among artificial ponds and dense tropical growth."

To many Israelis, particularly in the defence and security establishment, Ms Hanin is a heroine who did her patriotic duty by ensnaring in a honeytrap the man who betrayed the country's defence secrets. To Vanunu's many supporters in the international anti-nuclear movement she is the Mata Hari who destroyed the life of an idealist who thought he was acting in the higher cause of world peace.

Understandably perhaps, Ms Hanin - Yedhiot calls her by the married name of Bentov which she apparently prefers not to use - has a bad case of media shyness. "For me this is a black story and I just want to erase it and forget it," the paper quotes her telling a friend in Israel.

She has a history of moving on when confronted by the press. When The Sunday Times, who first published Mr Vanunu's sensational revelations of the secrets of the Dimona nuclear plant, discovered her living quietly in the northern Israeli town of Netanya in 1988, she left Israel for her native United States.

Since then, Yedhiot says, she and her family have not returned to Israel, although they still maintain a home in Kochav Yair, which, in effect, is their only link to Israel. She was "rediscovered" by the press a decade later and moved within Florida. Even her new life in Florida is not exactly a Yedhiot scoop. Last month the St Petersburg Times in Florida unearthed her again, and published a lengthy story which differed in some details from Yedhiot's.

It had her driving "a red Cutlass convertible" and estimated that her house was worth just more than $500,000 (330,000) rather than the $1m value attributed to it by the Israeli paper.

Neither Ms Hanin nor her husband were keen to be interviewed. When approached by the American newspaper "the burly Ben Tov", dressed in khakis and a maroon knit shirt, declined a request for an interview, and when a reporter visited the firm's headquarters in downtown Orlando. "So long, see you later," he said, and quickly retreated to his office. When the American paper reached a woman last month by telephone, she replied: "I have no interest in talking." And hung up.

Yedhiot quotes a close friend in Florida as explaining: "She left Israel to flee the media and the people who burrowed into her life. This bothered her a lot. She was terrified about journalists who came into her home and asked her questions. She felt a need to run. Since this affair Cheryl wants only one thing: a normal, quiet life."

This is a very different life from the one which prepared her for her last major assignment. Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon's Spies, the Secret History of Mossad, wrote: "She was sent on practice missions, breaking into an occupied hotel room, stealing documents from an office.

"She was roused from her bed in the dead of night and dispatched on more exercises: picking up a tourist in a nightclub, then disengaging herself outside his hotel. Every move she made was observed by her tutors." After her training, Ms Hanin joined the Mossad unit that worked with Israeli embassies, where she apparently posed as the wife or girlfriend of other agents.

Her last mission began when she engineered a meeting with Vanunu in Leicester Square and suggested a coffee, saying she was a beautician on holiday. Next day they met in the Tate gallery and began to see more of each other.

Peter Hounam, the Sunday Times journalist who had debriefed Vanunu, warned him that she could be a Mossad agent, but Vanunu insisted: "She is just a tourist who is critical of Israel. I think you would like her."

There were plans for Mr Vanunu to bring his new girlfriend to Mr Hounam's house but he cancelled because he "going out of the city". The trap, in other words, had been set.

Ms Hanin has until recently worked as an estate agent, as does her husband, also a former Mossad operative. Their daughters, aged 12 and 16, speak Hebrew, and according to Yedhiot, go every year to "the prestigious Scouts' camp in Atlanta, which teaches Zionism and has Israeli counsellers, to which Jewish children from all over the US come. The Bentovs are among the generous donors to the camp".

The paper adds that the person closest to Cheryl Bentov, whom she trusts unconditionally, is her mother, Riki Hanin, who lives close by and works as a property agent in Orlando and is very active in the Jewish community.

Yedhiot quotes one unnamed acquaintance as saying she has "exposed and shaky nerves. It was enough for her to suspect that her friends were talking about her big secret, for her to immediately cut off contact. Even relatives who talked about her found themselves banished from the family. She moves between discretion and paranoia".

In particular, the paper suggests, she is apprehensive that Vanunu, who is forbidden to go abroad for at least a year, will somehow make trouble for her after his release. The paper asks whether such seemingly unlikely fears are justified and remarks that "at least according to what Mordechai told his brother recently, he has no plans to get even with her".

 

ISRAEL FREES NUCLEAR WHISTLEBLOWER

Israel Frees Nuclear Whistleblower
The Associated Press
April 21, 2004

A defiant Mordechai Vanunu walked out of prison on Wednesday after serving 18 years for spilling Israel's nuclear secrets, saying he was proud of his actions and complaining he was treated cruelly by his jailers.

Vanunu, dressed in a checkered shirt and black tie, flashed victory signs and waved to hundreds of cheering supporters as he walked into the sun-splashed courtyard of Shikma Prison in the coastal town of Ashkelon. Dozens of counter-demonstrators booed and shouted epithets.

In the courtyard, Vanunu, 50, held an impromptu news conference, his brother Meir by his side. Vanunu said he was given ``very cruel and barbaric treatment'' by Israel's security services.

"To all those who are calling me traitor, I am saying I am proud, I am proud and happy to do what I did," Vanunu said in accented and at times broken English. He refused to answer questions in Hebrew because of restrictions Israel has imposed, including a ban on speaking to foreigners.

Vanunu, who converted to Christianity in the 1980s, said he was mistreated because of his religion. He also said there is no need for a Jewish state and demanded that Israel open its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspection.

"I said, Israel don't need nuclear arms, especially now that all the Middle East is free from nuclear weapons," he said.

He left the prison in a gray Mazda van as police dispersed a large crowd. His first stop was St. George, an Anglican church in Jerusalem's Old City. More than a dozen cars and motorcycles followed Vanunu's vehicle to Jerusalem, and a helicopter flew low overhead.

Israeli authorities have imposed a series of travel restrictions and other constraints on Vanunu, saying he still possesses state secrets. But Vanunu said he has no more secrets to reveal. ``I am now ready to start my life,'' he said.

Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, he was mobbed by reporters as the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, escorted him into the church. Other clergy members embraced Vanunu, and a tearful Peter Hounam, the journalist who wrote the 1986 article that led to Vanunu's imprisonment, hugged him.

In 1986, Vanunu leaked details and pictures of Israel's alleged nuclear weapons program to The Sunday Times of London. Based on his account, experts said at the time that Israel had the world's sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The revelations undercut Israel's long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying its nuclear capability. He was abducted by Israeli secret agents before the article was printed and subsequently convicted of treason in a closed trial.

Vanunu said Israel's Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement for nearly 12 years. "I said to the Shabak (Shin Bet), the Mossad, you didn't succeed to break me, you didn't succeed to make me crazy."

Asked if he was a hero, he said "all those who are standing behind me, supporting me ... all are heroes."

"I am a symbol of the will of freedom," he said. "You cannot break the human spirit."

Hundreds of supporters and opponents squared off in shouting matches outside the prison ahead of his release. Supporters chanted "Mordechai is free," while counter-demonstrators held signs calling him a traitor and shouted curses.

"He won't get out of here alive," opponents screamed as Vanunu's adopted parents, Minnesota couple Nick and Mary Eoloff, arrived at the prison. Vanunu said he hopes to settle in the United States and study history.

While the crowds were vocal, there was no violence.

Anti-nuclear weapons activists from around the world had gathered at Shikma in recent days. Among his supporters, was British actress Susannah York and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland.

But Vanunu is widely detested in Israel.

"He's hell-bent to do as much harm as he can," Justice Minister Tommy Lapid told The Associated Press. "We will keep an eye on him, we will watch him ... We want to know where he is and we want to know whom he may or may not divulge state secrets."

Vanunu will not be allowed to travel abroad for at least a year, speak with foreigners or approach Israeli ports or borders. He also is barred from discussing his work at Israel's nuclear reactor. Vanunu was given a map of Israel marking the areas off-limits to him, the Defense Ministry said.

Defense Ministry spokeswoman Rachel Niedak-Ashkenazi said security services have confiscated several tapes and notebooks with Vanunu's writings. In Hebrew and English, Vanunu wrote a detailed account of places, processes and areas of the nuclear reactor, she said, adding that he has an "excellent memory."

"It was a lot more than a personal diary. To us this showed an intention and ability to make future use of it," Niedak-Ashkenazi said.

Vanunu said the papers were personal and had been written in 1991.

Vanunu's family and Yoav Loeff, of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which is representing the nuclear spy, have said they are concerned about his safety.

But Lapid said no precautions or special security measures are planned. "He's surrounded by at least 100 radicals who are worshipping him so I'm sure they'll take care of his safety,'' he said.

Vanunu will live in a luxury apartment complex in Jaffa, an old seaport and today part of Tel Aviv. Jaffa has both Arab and Jewish residents. Vanunu, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew, converted to Christianity in the mid-1980s.

The Andromeda Hill complex has 170 apartments, and tenants include both wealthy foreigners and local residents. It was unclear who is paying for Vanunu's apartment.

Richard Caseby, managing editor of the Sunday Times, said the newspaper was giving Vanunu "some assistance," but declined to elaborate. He said Vanunu was not paid for the original story.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.