WASHINGTON (Jul. 13)
Jewish groups began a two-week vigil outside of the Soviet Embassy here last week to demand freedom for Boris Kochubiyevsky, a young Russian-Jewish engineer imprisoned last May reportedly for demanding the right to emigrate to Israel and for insisting that Soviet Jews be allowed to leave the country or to lead Jewish cultural and religious lives in Russia without fear of repression. The vigil is being conducted between noon and 1 p.m. daily by constituent groups of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington and will end July 24.
The Jewish pickets were relieved Saturday by volunteers of Amnesty International, Inc., a non Jewish humanitarian organization active on behalf of political prisoners all over the world. Among the Jewish demonstrators are members of B’nai B’rith, Pioneer Women, Students Struggle for Soviet Jewry and synagogues in the Greater Washington area. Additional demonstrators from Philadelphia will join them on July 23.
Mr. Kochubiyevsky’s case came to light when Western newsmen acquired a copy of a letter he wrote last November to Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid I. Brezhnev in which he demanded the right to go to Israel so that he could send his children “to study in a school in Yiddish” and could read Yiddish newspapers and attend a Yiddish theater.
At the time, Mr. Kochubiyevsky had not been arrested but charges had been brought against him for slandering the Soviet Union and its system. “Is it really a slander that in the multi-national Soviet state only the Jewish people cannot educate their children in schools in their own language?” he asked in his letter to Mr. Brezhnev. He added that if he was sent to prison and survived, he would go to Israel when he got out even if it meant travelling on foot.
Mr. Kochubiyevsky applied for an exit visa for himself and his wife, who is non-Jewish. When he went to pick up his papers his apartment was searched. The visa was denied and charges were brought against him stemming from pro-Israel remarks he had allegedly made publicly following the June. 1967 Arab-Israeli war. According to reports from Moscow, he was sentenced in Mav to three years in a Soviet prison camp.