New York (Jul. 19)
Aleksander Gorbach, a 35-year-old Jewish engineer who was tried in Vinnitsa, Ukraine over the week-end, has been fined $444 and will be freed on payment, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned from Jewish sources here today. Gorbach, who was arrested for possession of materials with Jewish themes, faced a sentence of up to two years’ imprisonment. The prosecution however demanded only a fine in the amount of $555. The sources speculated that the lenient sentence may have stemmed from a desire by the Soviet authorities not to look “foolish” in the eyes of the world and that it might improve Gorbach’s chances of obtaining an exit visa to go to Israel. Gorbach suffers from a serious eye ailment. Unlike other Soviet political prisoners, he was allowed to live at home while awaiting trial.
Richard Maass, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, had cabled Soviet Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev, Premier Alexei Kosygia and other officials in Moscow over the week-end declaring that the Gorbach trial was “part of a deliberate campaign to discourage requests for exit permits by Jews who wish to live as Jews in dignity and freedom.” On learning of the mild penalty imposed on Gorbach, Maass told the JTA today that it could be interpreted “perhaps” as a Soviet response to mounting world opinion against the political trials of Jews. If so, he added, this is only further indication that Moscow is sensitive to world opinion and that the pressure must be maintained. Jewish sources here reported today that nine Jews convicted in the second Leningrad trial will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic on July 27. It had been reported earlier that they would appeal tomorrow. (An appeal by Valeriy Kukui, sentenced last month to three years’ imprisonment for “activities harmful to the state,” will be heard in Sverdlovsk at the end of this month according to Jewish sources in London.)