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Israel arrests nuclear whistle-blower

Mordechai Vanunu flashes the "V" sign as he is brought into an Israeli court Tuesday in Jerusalem.
Mordechai Vanunu flashes the "V" sign as he is brought into an Israeli court Tuesday in Jerusalem.
  • Mordechai Vanunu allegedly violates terms of prison release
  • Vanunu was imprisoned 1986-2004 on espionage charges
  • His reports shined light on Israeli nuclear weapons program
  • Vanunu now accused of illegally contacting foreign nationals

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu was arrested Tuesday by Israeli police for allegedly violating the terms of his 2004 prison release agreement.

Vanunu was convicted by an Israeli court in 1986 after being kidnapped from Italy by Israeli intelligence agents. He was sentenced to 18 years for passing on information about Israel's clandestine nuclear program.

Vanunu, who at the time worked as a technician at Israel's nuclear research facility, passed information along to a British newspaper and led nuclear arms analysts to conclude that Israel possessed a stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it has a nuclear weapons program.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said Vanunu was arrested for an unauthorized meeting with foreigners and was due in court later Tuesday.

Vanunu's attorney, Avigdor Feldman, clarified that the arrest had to do with his client's relationship with a Norwegian girlfriend and nothing to do with revealing state secrets.

The court ordered that Vanunu be put under house arrest for three days until an indictment is served, a police spokesman told CNN.

Speaking to reporters at a Jerusalem court, Vanunu said Israel and its leaders were "impotent" because they have nuclear weapons which they are not able to admit they have.

"This Jewish state has 200 atomic ... hydrogen bombs, atomic weapons, neutron bomb," he said. "They are not able to say they have the bomb, they are not able to destroy anyone. ... Instead they arrest Vanunu Mordechai."

At the time of his release in 2004, the Israeli Justice Ministry said in a statement that it believed there was a "high degree of probability that Vanunu wishes to divulge state secrets, secrets that have yet to be divulged."

According to the terms of Vanunu's release, he is prohibited from leaving the country or making contact with foreign residents without advance permission.

But ever since then, Vanunu has been arrested on a number of occasions for violations of his release agreement, and in 2007 he was sentenced to six months for not fulfilling his parole requirements.

In his remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Vanunu said that since his 2004 release he has met with foreigners "all the time" and that he had been living among foreigners.