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10 years in solitary

Mordechai Vanunu has spent 10 years, all in solitary confinement, of an 18-year sentence for revealing datails of larael's nuclear weapons programme to theSundeyThnes in 1986.

On 14 and 15 October, the International Campaign to Free Vanunu held a conference in a beachside hotel in Tel Aviv on Democracy, Human rights and Mordechal Vanunu. It was chaired by Professor Rotblat, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate1995 and other participants included Daniel Ellsberg (whose leaking of the Pentagon Papers helped to end the Vietnam War), three other whistle-blowers, Vanunu's brother Meir, Dr Frank Bamaby, the physicist who debriefed Vanunu before the Sunday Times publicetion, Italian High Court Judge Amedeo Postiglione, Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu's lawyer, and Susannah York.

Holding the conference in Israel was itself an achievement; attracting such high-calibre delegates was another. Israeli organiser YaeI Lotan told the conference, "The media coverage.[in Israel] exceeds our expectations; some log-jam appears to have been broken". A sign of the impact of the conference on Israel was President Weizman agreeing to meet Rotblat afterwards.

Some aspects of the conference were less satisfactory. There was disagreement about its purpose. Rotblat said it was to obtain Vanunu's freedom on purely humane grounds. Others. argued that it should be to carry. on the campaign for which Vanunu gave his freedom: to disseminate information about Israel's nuclear weapons programme and to work for a nuclear-free Middle East. The limitations of the humanitarian approach were shown when Weizman told Roblat that he. would not intervene over Vanunu's imprisonment and that solitary confinement was part of his sentence, then finished by thanking Roblat for helping produce the atom bomb!

David Polden

Campaign to Free Vanunu and for a Nuclear-Free Middle East, 89 Borough High Street, London SEl 1NL (tel/fax +44 171 378 9324)