Police storm cathedral to arrest whistleblower

Published December 1, 2004

Mordechai Vanunu was released from custody but placed under house arrest after 30 armed Israeli police stormed St. George’s (Anglican) Cathedral in Jerusalem, and arrested him on Nov. 11.

Mr. Vanunu, a convert to Christianity and former Israeli nuclear technician, exposed Israel ‘s possession of nuclear weapons in the mid-1980s. He was tried in secret, convicted of treason and sentenced to 18 years in prison; he had been staying at the cathedral since his release from prison in April.

He was taken for questioning by police on suspicion that he had leaked more classified information, Israeli police said.

His arrest had drawn harsh condemnation from Jerusalem Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, who said the police had intruded into sacred space. “It was a traumatic event that terrorized many of our tourists, pilgrims, and staff. In the 100 years of the cathedral’s history, such an event has never taken place,” said Bishop El-Assal in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and other primates of the Anglican Communion shortly after the incident. “This type of entry into a sacred space must not be tolerated by the churches throughout the world and it must not be accepted by those who respect the rights and dignity of every person.”

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written to Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew asking the government to express concern to the government of Israel over the armed intrusion into the cathedral.

Shortly after Mr. Vanunu’s release in April, he asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to protect him saying he was receiving death threats. His release arrangement bars him from meeting foreigners or discussing his work at the nuclear reactor.


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