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New Soviet Repression of Jews

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According to a new assessment by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, Soviet authorities apparently used the war in the Middle East as a cover for the escalation of harassment of Jewish activists. Richard Maass, chairman of the NCSJ, stated today that “petty harassment during the past month had become the norm for many Soviet Jews. The beginning of new repression is seen by Soviet Jews as starting with the Arab terrorist attack on Soviet Jewish emigrants aboard a Vienna-bound train in Czechoslovakia.”

However, the Soviet-supported war against Israel “marked a new stage in the intimidation of Soviet Jews,” he continued. “In the beginning we saw the imprisonment of up to 15 days, on minor charges, and the isolating of Jews by disconnecting phones. More ominous is a series of trials just announced, in different parts of the Soviet Union, aimed at intimidating Jewish activists and discouraging applicants for emigration.”

In what he termed a return to the mood prevailing before the Nixon-Brezhnev summit meeting in June, Maass noted that the new trials are “an affront to efforts for detente.” Especially significant are the two trials of Soviet Jews scheduled to open this week and next on trumped-up charges, he stated.

The trial of Petya Pinchasov, a carpenter, will open tomorrow in Derbent, on the Caspian Sea. At the beginning of Sept., he, his wife and their six children had visas and were preparing to leave for Israel. But he was arrested on charges that years ago he did some free-lance carpentry work, which is considered illegal. It is on this charge that he is facing trial. Meanwhile, his family have arrived in Israel.

In Kiev, the trial of Aleksandr Feldman is scheduled to open on Monday. Feldman had applied for an exit visa to go to Israel. But on Oct. 18 Kiev authorities searched his apartment and he was subsequently taken into custody and charged with allegedly assaulting an as yet unidentified woman. He faces a charge of “malicious hooliganism” at his upcoming trial. Officials have already threatened to put him in the Pavlov psychiatric hospital near Kiev. Thus far, no attorney has agreed to defend Feldman. His friends are desperately seeking one.

Maass also cited the case of Saul Raslin, a 28-year-old Kiev activist who was put under surveillance by the KGB on Nov. 6 and who disappeared that day and has not been heard from. Leonid Zabelishensky, 32, of Sverdlovsk is now being investigated on criminal charges of alleged “parasitism” having been unemployed for several months. He was an electrical engineer who taught at the Ural Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk.

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