- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

JERUSALEM — Heavily armed police commandos stormed a Jerusalem church compound yesterday and arrested nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu for purportedly revealing classified information, seven months after he completed a prison sentence for treason, police said.

Mr. Vanunu was detained at his rented rooms in Jerusalem’s St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, but Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman declined to discuss the nature of Mr. Vanunu’s purported disclosures or to whom he made them.

Police removed papers and a computer from Mr. Vanunu’s rooms, Mr. Kleiman said.

Mr. Vanunu, 49, was released from prison in April after 18 years, much of it in solitary confinement, for disclosing secrets he learned as a technician at the Israeli nuclear reactor in the southern town of Dimona in the 1980s.

He has acknowledged violating his release arrangement, which barred him from meeting foreigners or discussing his work at Dimona, but he said he had no more classified information to reveal.

Yesterday morning, about 20 police commandos wearing bulletproof vests and wielding machine guns burst into the walled compound of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, where Mr. Vanunu took sanctuary in a guesthouse after his release, arresting him as he ate breakfast.

Although Mr. Vanunu appeared calm as he was led away, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal accused Israeli police of violating the sanctity of the church, said Ninni Rydsjo, a Swedish aid worker staying at the hostel attached to the church.

Mr. Vanunu was convicted in 1988 of divulging information and pictures of the Dimona reactor. The details, published in London’s Sunday Times, led analysts to conclude that Israel has the world’s sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, including hundreds of warheads.

Israel has followed a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying it has nuclear weapons.

Mr. Vanunu, a convert to Christianity, became a hero to peace activists for his role in revealing Israel’s nuclear program.

Peter Hounam, the Sunday Times journalist who published Mr. Vanunu’s nuclear revelations, said he was “horrified” by the arrest, and accused the Israeli authorities of using yesterday’s death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to try to divert attention from it.

“I think they deliberately waited until Arafat died,” he said from England.

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