Israel Had No Role in Hijack Plot; Jews on Trial May Be ‘rehabilitated’ Some Day

An Israeli official predicted that the Jews presently on trial in Leningrad and the others serving prison terms in the alleged aerial hijack plot may some day be “rehabilitated” by a new Soviet regime. Nir Baruch, Minister Counsellor of the Israel Embassy here said the Leningrad trial followed the same pattern as previous political trials in the Soviet Union and other Communist states. Addressing several hundred scientists and employes of the National Institute of Health, Baruch declared that the “attempts to implicate Israel in accusations raised at the Leningrad trials are a vicious lie.” He said “Israel played no part whatsoever in this whole episode.” He referred to the fact that the nine Jews on trial in Leningrad have been accused, among other “crimes” of having received aid and instructions from Israel regarding the attempted hijacking of a Soviet airliner at Leningrad last June 15. He said that Israel has time and again publicly disassociated itself from acts of violence of any kind and that Israeli opposition to hijacking and similar actions was “a precept of policy expressed many times by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.” He said the hijack plot was engineered by the KGB, the Soviet secret police, as an excuse for arresting Jewish activists who had been demanding their emigration rights. He pointed out that no plane was ever hijacked and that the accused in Leningrad were not in the proximity of any plane when they were arrested.

Replying to questions from his audience, Baruch said “The history of the Soviet Union is replete with a catalogue of trials that were conducted with a political motive in mind. The common feature of all these trials was that most of the accused allegedly admitted their guilt. An equally common characteristic is that years later the governments themselves rehabilitated the condemned and openly admitted that they had fallen victims to the injustices and political machinations of their persecutors. The current trial is of a similar nature.” Tass the Soviet news agency, reported from Moscow yesterday that four Jews convicted in last December’s Leningrad hijack trial and now serving prison terms were brought to court to testify against the current Leningrad defendants. They were identified by Tass as Maj. Mark Dymshitz and Edvard Kuznetzov, the alleged ring-leaders, Silva Zalmanson Kuznetzov, who is in her ninth month of pregnancy, and Yosef Mendelevich.

According to Tass they all gave evidence against the accused. Maj. Dymshitz allegedly incriminated Grigory Hillel Butman and Mikhail Korenblit. The ban on foreign newsmen at the trial, including correspondents from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and other Communist states, made it impossible to corroborate the Tass account. Jewish sources stated however that it was misleading and incomplete. The sources said that Tass failed to report Butman’s statement that he had tried to dissuade Dymshitz from attempting to leave the Soviet Union illegally. The same sources said that two other defendants, Lev Yagman and Viktor Boguslasky never admitted guilt, contrary to the Tass report. They admitted however their connection with “Exodus,” the underground bulletin of Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union. They pointed out that “Exodus” was not an anti-Soviet publication and was dedicated to helping Jews obtain exit visas through legal channels. Jewish sources cast doubt on the authenticity of a letter published in Leningradskaya Pravda from the parents of one of the defendants, Viktor Shtilbans, denouncing his activities and Zionism in general.

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