The former head of Israel's Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) internal security service, Avi Dichter, reacted strongly Saturday to an interview aired by Channel 2 with Mordechai Vanunu, the former nuclear technician jailed for leaking classified information on Israel's nuclear program.
In any normal country "a man like this would rot in jail. In other countries he would be in his grave," as opposed to being released and interviewed on prime-time TV, Dichter said.
On Friday, Channel 2 aired its full interview with Vanunu, in which the convicted traitor said he wanted to leave Israel to live with his new wife in Norway.
"I got married three months ago to my wife who is in Norway," he said in an interview of which excerpts were released earlier this week.
"She is the wage-earner, she is the one who is working, she can't live here," Vanunu said. "I want to start living my life."
Vanunu married Norwegian theology professor Kristin Joachimsen at a Lutheran church in Jerusalem on May 19.
The 60-year-old converted to Christianity shortly before being snatched in Rome by Mossad agents and smuggled to Israel.
Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1986, after being convicted of treason and espionage for revealing details of Israel's nuclear plant in Dimona, where he had worked as a nuclear technician.
Since his release in 2004 – upon which he expressed to remorse for his actions – Vanunu has been subjected to a number of restrictions aimed at preventing him from leaking further classified information. Among other things he is forbidden from speaking to foreigners, from leaving thecountry or even approaching its borders.
He has been arrested several times for breaching those conditions, and even spent short stints in prison as a result.
Relating to his appeal to be allowed to leave the country – and claims that he no longer posed a threat – Dichter begged to differ.
"I've finished with all that," Vanunu told his interviewer. "I don't have any secrets and I want to leave. They should let me leave and live my life with my wife abroad."
But Dichter was not impressed. "Even after many years, under the interrogation of someone serious abroad, a man like this can cause harm," the former Shin Bet chief warned.
In Friday's interview Vanunu claimed that after years of working at Dimona and winning promotion he was not searched on entry and was able to smuggle in a camera and take 58 pictures of the facilities without being detected.
He also revealed details of his capture by Mossad agents in Italy, after having been lured from London by the Israeli spy agency.