Oren Reports How He Was Tortured in Czech Jail; Kept Without Sleep

Mordecai Oren, who came home to Israel last week after four-and-a-half years in Czech prisons, today told a meeting of the secretariat of the leftwing Mapam Party of the “Gestapo-like inquisition” which had induced him to confess to crimes he never committed. The secretariat meeting was held in Oren’s home at the Mizra collective settlement.

Mr. Oren began his story by describing his last mission in Czechoslovakia–intervention on behalf of arrested Socialists. He was taken into custody aboard a train bound for Vienna, from where he had intended to return to Israel. The immediate pretext for his arrest was an expired entry visa. Later, he said, he was questioned as to why he had intervened on behalf of the jailed Socialists. Then, he felt, he was probably chosen to become a cog in the huge machinery constructed to try the late Rudolf Slansky-Czech Communist leader who was executed for treason–and his associates. The Slansky trial, in which Mr. Oren was involved, heard Czech Government charges that Slansky had, among other things, been implicated in an international Zionist conspiracy to betray the state.

Mr. Oren revealed that he had been interrogated for days on end–in one instance he want without sleep for three weeks and was given only coffee and cigarettes in order to keep him awake, with fresh interrogators taking over the questioning every few hours. As he was nearing collapse, he related, he came to understand that no one in Israel would know his fate and he, therefore, requested permission to write. This request was not granted, he said, until a high official told him he could write home, but only on condition that he say in his letter that he really was a traitor and asked an apology of the Czech people for the crimes he had committed against them.

He wrote that letter–he added–in order that those at home would know he was still alive and with the hope that they would understand that his self-description as a “traitor” was false. The Mapam leader then went on to say that he had been turned into an object through which Zionism, Mapam and Jewry could be attacked. “Had they really wanted the truth,” he said, “they would have completed my investigation in 22 minutes, but they wanted the opposite and that took them 22 months until they made me confess to everything they wanted.” They succeeded in this aim, he charged, through Gestapo measures–nearly no food, no water and no sleep.

Another episode described by the returned Mapam leader to the meeting was his trial. It was a secret military trial and he was denied every possibility of making an adequate defense–no lawyers of his own, no documents and no defense witnesses. The lawyer furnished him, he added, was only another prosecutor, who asked the court that Mr. Oren be meted out a just punishment. The epilogue to this episode, according to Mr. Oren was even more ironic–he was supposed to pay defense counsel 600 kronen for that defense.

The Mapam leader stressed that he did not sign a charge sheet in which he was to have confessed that Mapam was not a workers’ party and that it was anti-Socialist. “In all the charges and confessions I signed,” he concluded, “there was only one true thing, and that was my name. All the other things were lies, fabricated by those who desecrate Socialist ideals and Socialist regimes.”

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