IMAGE: Mordechai Vanunu released
Nir Elias  /  Reuters
Mordechai Vanunu, flashes a victory sign as he is freed from Shikma jail in Ashkelon after serving an 18-year prison term for revealing secrets that exposed Israel as one of the world's top atomic powers.
updated 4/21/2004 6:32:37 AM ET 2004-04-21T10:32:37

Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison Wednesday after serving 18 years for spilling Israel's nuclear secrets, saying he was proud of his actions and complaining he was treated cruelly by his jailers.

Vanunu, dressed in a checkered shirt and black tie, flashed victory signs and waved to cheering supporters as he walked into the courtyard of Shikma Prison in the coastal town of Ashkelon. Counter-demonstrators booed.

In the courtyard, Vanunu held an impromptu news conference, flanked by two of his brothers. Vanunu said was given "very cruel and barbaric treatment" by Israel's security services.

"I am proud and happy to do what I did," Vanunu said in accented English. He refused to answer questions in Hebrew because of the suffering he said he sustained at the hands of the state of Israel.

Vanunu, who converted to Christianity in the 1980s, said he was mistreated because of his religion. He also said there is no need for a Jewish state.

He said he had no more secrets to reveal. "I am now ready to start my life," he said.

Vanunu said Israel's Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement for nearly 12 years. "I said to the Shabak (Shin Bet), the Mossad, you didn't succeed to break me, you didn't succeed to make me crazy."

Asked if he was a hero, he said "all those who are standing behind me, supporting me ... all are heroes."

"I am a symbol of the will of freedom," he said. "You cannot break the human spirit."

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