NEW YORK (Feb. 24)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported today that Vladimir Slepak, a scientist and a leading Jewish activist in Moscow, has been threatened with a prison term if he refuses to accept a menial job in a concrete construction factory. Slepak, 44, a physicist and electronics engineer who was graduated from the Aviation Institute, lost his job at the Geophysics Trust and the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy after he applied for visas for himself and his family to go to Israel in March, 1970, the NCSJ said. He has been unemployed since Sept. 1971.
The NCSJ learned in a telephone conversation with Moscow that Slepak was threatened with trial on charges of “parasitism” which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail, unless he accepts the job. The law on parasitism went into effect in the 1960s and was originally intended to be used against alcoholics and other social “undesirables.” It has been invoked against non-Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union, but as far as is known, Slepak is the first Jewish dissident to be so threatened, the NCSJ said.
According to the telephone information, Slepak was summoned without warning to a special meeting yesterday of the executive council of the Frunze district in Moscow and was accused of being a parasite. He was ordered to go to work at the concrete plant in any job the plant manager chose to assign him. When Slepak refused, he was given five days to reconsider and told that if he did not accept the work his case would be turned over to the courts. Slepak has a wife and two children.
Jerry Goodman, executive director of the NCSJ, branded the action against Slepak “part of what appears to be an ominous trend by the Soviet authorities to move against Jewish activists in Moscow.”