By DANIELLA CHESLOW, Associated Press WriterSun Aug 8, 2:27 pm ET
JERUSALEM – An Israeli nuclear whistleblower who spent 18 years behind bars was released from jail Sunday after serving an additional three months for violating his release terms.
Mordechai Vanunu was a technician at Israel's top-secret nuclear reactor next to the desert town of Dimona. In 1986 he carried out of the country hundreds of pictures he took of the interior of the reactor and gave them to the London Sunday Times.
Experts concluded from his information and pictures that Israel had hundreds of nuclear bombs. Israel has never admitted that, pursuing an official policy of "ambiguity," hoping to deter potential attackers without detailing a nuclear arsenal.
Vanunu was abducted by Israeli security agents weeks after the publication of the article and brought to Israel for trial. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, serving much of the term in solitary confinement.
On his release in 2004, Vanunu was forbidden from speaking to foreigners, including journalists. He has been arrested an imprisoned several times since then for flouting the restrictions. In the latest case, he was jailed three months ago for contacting journalists and other foreigners.
In addition to the other restrictions, Vanunu is banned from leaving Israel. Security agencies claim he still has information that could compromise Israel's security.
After his release Sunday, Vanunu said, "All this harassing me and arresting me again and again is Israel's problem, not my problem."
He was speaking in English, as he refuses to speak in public in his native Hebrew.
Vanunu, 55, has become a hero for anti-nuclear weapons activists. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, though he asked to be dropped from the list of candidates because Shimon Peres, now Israel's president, received the award in 1994.