VThe son of an immigrant family from Marrakech, Morocco, Vanunu abandoned his studies as a physicist and joined the Dimona Nuclear Research Center in 1977, working as a technician. He was laid off in 1985, having applied to join the Israeli Communist party, but in 1986 attempted to sell information and photographs he had taken from inside the plant to a journalist in Australia. Vanunu was brought to London by the Sunday Times to have his story verified, and a rival newspaper, the Sunday Mirror, identified him as a hoaxer and claimed that his supposedly illicit photographs of a secret underground plutonium processing unit were actually of a car wash or an egg-packing factory. Dismayed but undeterred, the Sunday Times obtained independent corroboration of Vanunu’s bona fides and in September 1986 published his assertion that Israel had developed a sizeable atomic arsenal of free-fall bombs and nuclear land mines.
Meanwhile the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had learned of Vanunu’s intention to make disclosures regarding his former employment and informed the Mossad, which conducted an operation in London to lure him to Italy. He encountered, seemingly accidentally, an attractive American girl while window shopping, and she invited him to Rome for the weekend. When he flew to Italy, he was immediately abducted and returned to Israel for trial. He was convicted in March 1988 of treason and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. Released on parole in 2004, he converted to Christianity but was quickly rearrested for breaching the terms of his release, which included a ban on interviews with foreign journalists and on travel abroad.