Report Soviet Authorities Eliminate Defense Witnesses in Riga by Granting Them Visas

Mrs. Rebecca Aleksandrovich, whose daughter Ruth is one of five Jews awaiting trial in Riga on charges of “subversive” activities, reported here today that Soviet authorities have eliminated all possible defense witnesses by granting them exit visas. Mrs. Aleksandrovich arrived here this morning with her 18-year-old son Avigdor on an El Al charter flight from Vienna which brought another large group of emigres from the Soviet Union. Her report confirmed the frequently expressed view that the relative casing of Soviet visa policies during the past two months was intended to get rid of Jewish activists and others who could embarrass the regime. Others among today’s newcomers reported that Soviet authorities are once more tightening up on the issuance of visas to Jews. They said there was growing fear among Russian Jews that emigration would be cut down to a mere trickle. These reports corroborated Jewish sources in Vilna who claimed in a telephone conversation with Israeli relatives yesterday that fewer exit visas were being issued now than a month ago. The new arrivals told of many families who received their papers and sold their homes and belongings as a consequence, only to get official notice that their exit permits were cancelled.

Many knowledgable observers here and abroad attributed the spurt of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union last month to a desire by Soviet authorities to protect their image before and during the 24th Communist Party Congress early in April. They said that once the Congress ended, the Soviets would revert to their earlier restrictive policies. Today’s reports seemed to bear out this analysis. One immigrant from Riga said that during the Party Congress the local director of the Interior Ministry who was known for his anti-Jewish attitude, became polite to Jews seeking exit permits. Since the Congress adjourned, he has resumed his old behavior, the immigrant said. Mrs. Aleksandrovich told newsmen at Lydda Airport of her own family’s dilemma. She, her husband and son were granted visas after her daughter was arrested. Her daughter, 23, who is a nurse, urged her mother to go while she had the chance. The family decided that the mother and son would go to Israel while the father remained in Riga for the trial. When and if the trial will actually take place remains a mystery. Usually reliable sources said last month that it would begin on April 15. But it failed to materialize and no new date has been mentioned since in any quarters. Today’s new arrivals included families from Riga, Vilna. Tzernovitz and the Georgian Republic.

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