10 protest imprisonment of Israeli 'whistle blower'

By Heather Urquides
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 4, 1996

Holding brightly-colored signs reading, "Free Mordechai Vanunu - Israeli nuclear whistle blower," 10 protesters stood on East Sunrise Drive in front of the hotel where former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres spoke last night.

Felice Cohen-Joppa, spokeswoman for the Tucson Chapter of the U.S. campaign to free Vanunu, said they were there trying to influence Peres and Israeli decision-makers to release Vanunu, who has been in Ashkelon, Israel, confined to a 6-by-9-foot cell for 10 years.

Vanunu was sent to prison on charges of treason and espionage after giving a London newspaper information about a secret nuclear facility in Dimona, where he worked as a nuclear technician, Cohen-Joppa said.

Vanunu went public with the classified information, she said, because he felt the world should know there were nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Cohen-Joppa said he felt that because Israel is a democracy, the people have a right to know what the government is doing.

She said Peres' talk on peace in Tucson is a good way to get information out about Vanunu.

"We felt it was important to point out that nuclear weapons are a block in a road to peace in the Middle East," she said.

Her group also puts out an international newsletter, the Nuclear Register, with information about nuclear prisoners.

Peres, 1994 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke last night at The Westin La Paloma as part of the TMC Foundation's Greater Issues Series.

Cohen-Joppa said that although Peres has not been sympathetic to releasing Vanunu in the past, she said "Vanunu had a better chance of winning his release when Peres was prime minister than with Netanyahu."

Peres did not comment last night on Vanunu's imprisonment.