44 Moscow, Kharkov Jews Plead for Fair Trial for Arrested Leningrad Jews

A letter signed by 44 Jews in Moscow and Kharkov appealing to the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet to assure a fair trial for eight Leningrad Jews under arrest, was made public here today by Rabbi Steven Riskin of the Lincoln Square Synagogue. Rabbi Riskin smuggled a copy of the letter out of Russia on a recent visit there. The eight Jews in Leningrad are being held allegedly in connection with an abortive attempt to hijack a Soviet airliner at Leningrad airport last spring. However, it is widely believed they are being punished for their public expression of wishes to emigrate to Israel and that Soviet authorities are preparing a “show trial” to intimidate other Jews who have expressed similar desires. The 44 signatories of the letter to the Soviet leadership gave their home addresses and their occupations which ranged from engineers, mathematicians, and scientists to musicians, students and housewives. They referred to famous “show trials” of the past in Russia directed against Jews, from the Bellis trial in Czarist days which involved charges of ritual murder to the notorious doctors’ plot of the Stalinist era. “Who will give us guarantees now that such trials will not be repeated?” they wrote. “Yes, precisely–guarantees. Because it cannot be said that we have no hope, that time has changed nothing and that in the last 20 years justice has not become more worthy of its name.” The signers expressed fear “of the escalation of reprisals by the spread of trials–both a geographic spread and a spread in time. We are afraid of the possible diversity of accusations so as to distract Soviet and world public opinion.” They warned that “Evil does not disappear…it merely changes its appearance and becomes more flexible, refined and sudden. When people are thrown into prisons because of their convictions, this is evil; concretely–in Syria Communists are now persecuted; this is evil,” the letter said.

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