NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
Two American district attorneys who just returned from a two-week fact-finding visit to the Soviet Union said here today that they reached the “inescapable conclusion” that Jews were being held in detention there in “flagrant violation of the Soviet Constitution and Soviet law.” They referred to the specific guarantees of a trial within nine months of arrest. “Many Soviet Jews have been imprisoned without trial for longer than nine months,” Eugene Gold and Robert F. Leonard reported to newsmen at a press conference here. Gold, District Attorney of Kings County (Brooklyn), is Jewish. Leonard, District Attorney of Genesee County, Michigan, is a Roman Catholic. They said they visited the Soviet Union in private capacities, specifically to investigate the condition of Jews. They said they were the first American public officials to visit four Soviet cities where Jews are reportedly being held for trial–Riga. Leningrad, Moscow and Kishinev. They spoke to Jewish families and to Soviet officials in each of the cities, they said. Soviet Jews are imprisoned and held incommunicado despite repeated attempts by their families to visit them and despite the fact that they appear to have violated no Soviet laws, the two American lawyers reported. The charges against them usually stemmed from traffic in Hebrew books or their desire to emigrate. “In most cases there has been clear intimidation through subtle threats and intrigues” to prevent the prisoners from obtaining lawyers of their choice, Gold and Leonard said.
They reported that in Leningrad they spoke to Aleksander Barulin, deputy manager of the department of external affairs of the Leningrad Soviet, who indicated that Jews were being held as hostages for a Middle East settlement. The lawyers reported that Barulin, one of the two highest ranking Leningrad officials, remarked that the arrests of Jews were “directly related to political conditions in the Middle East.” Leonard and Gold said they would discuss this matter “at length” with Secretary of State William P. Rogers when he returns from abroad. They said that in Moscow, Nicolai Tsibulnik, an aide to the Soviet chief prosecutor Roman A. Rudenko, denied that the detentions without trial were violating Soviet law. He remarked, according to the two visitors, that “the problem (of Jews) would soon be eliminated.” They said that remark seemed ominous to them. The propaganda chief in Kishinev denied that any Jews were being held. Gold and Leonard reported that the Jewish families they spoke to were fearful that their telephone lines were being tapped and claimed they were kept under surveillance. The two Americans said they themselves were “constantly followed by the Soviet secret police.” They said local authorities tried to discourage them from speaking to Jewish families and resorted to hindrences. The press conference was arranged by the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry.