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Sunday Times reporter held in Israel

May 27, 2004 17:01 IST

Israeli secret service agents last night arrested Peter Hounam, the Sunday Times journalist who broke the story about Israel's secret nuclear programme in 1986, report agencies.

The story came after Mordechai Vanunu gave details and pictures of  Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to the Times

Vananu, who was later drugged and taken to Israel, where he spent 18 years in jail, was freed last month amidst much publicity. 

Hounam, 60, doggedly followed the twists and turns of Mr Vanunu's years in an Israeli jail, was arrested by plain-clothes officers from Israel's Shin Bet internal security service as he went for a dinner meeting in Tel Aviv, said the Times

'When he was driven at high speed back to his hotel in Jerusalem, where he had stayed since Mr Vanunu's release five weeks ago, he broke away from his captors for long enough to tug the hair of an old Amnesty International acquaintance also staying there to alert her to his arrest,' the Times said. 

According to the article, ' last Saturday an Israeli journalist, Yael Lotan, 68, secretly interviewed Vanunu at his St George 's quarters. The story was to run in The Sunday Times this week, though Ms Lotan said there were no new revelations. Mr Hounam, who knew of the interview, had been due to meet Ms Lotan near her home in Tel Aviv last night. He called on his mobile phone shortly before they were to meet to say that he had lost his bearings. When he did not call for more than an hour, Ms Lotan became alarmed.'

"I have no doubt in my mind that they were following him," she was quoted as saying. She then received a call from Amnesty International's Middle East specialist Donatella Rovera,  who said that Hounam had told her to inform The Sunday Times of his arrest.

"I was sitting at a table in the garden when I saw Peter arrive with five plain-clothes policemen," she said.

 "He suddenly broke away from them and came running over to my table and told me he had been arrested. He looked agitated and wanted me to tell newspapers what had happened. The police caught up with him and led him upstairs in the hotel. After about 20 or 30 minutes they returned with some of his stuff."

The Israeli government later confirmed the arrest.


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