NEW YORK (Jul. 8)
Three recent Soviet immigrants to Israel, who are relatives of Soviet Jewish “prisoners of conscience” said today they have come to the United States to appeal for aid to the American government and people to help save the lives of their relatives and other prisoners in Soviet labor camps. Chaim Drori, a brother-in-law of Yosif Mendel-vich, who was sentenced to 12 years at the first Leningrad trial in Dec. 1970, said there are some 35 “prisoners of conscience” in Soviet labor camps and nothing has been heard of any of them since the end of May when they went on a hunger strike, the only means of protest for the prisoners.
Mrs. Eva Butman, whose husband, Hillel was sentenced to 10 years of strict regime in the second Leningrad trial in May 1971, said all the relatives of the prisoners are in “desperate straits” fearing for the lives of their imprisoned relatives. Julia Dymshits, whose father Mark Dymshits was sentenced to 15 years in the first Leningrad trial, said they were afraid because prisoners who have been released have come out in poor health or as invalids.
The three, speaking in Russian, appeared at a press conference at the Garment Center Synagogue, sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the GNY CSJ which along with the National Conference on Soviet Jewry is sponsoring the three on their 10-day trip in the U.S., said the group will meet with Jewish leaders and with the representatives of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Amnesty International in New York. In Washington they will meet later this week with Administration officials. Senators and Congressmen and representatives of the American Red Cross.
Drori said the group also hopes to meet with the wives of President Nixon and Vice-President Gerald Ford because they believe they would understand the suffering of young wives and children whose husbands and fathers are in Soviet Labor camps.
QUIET DIPLOMACY ALONE WILL NOT WORK
The Soviet government does not respond to appeals based on humanity, only to pressure, Drori emphasized. He said that is why the “quiet diplomacy” alone will not work but there must be pressure from American public opinion and American governmental leaders. Drori praised Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.) for his efforts as embodied in the Jackson Amendment which would deny the USSR favored nation trade status unless emigration restrictions are removed.
He said the fate of Soviet Jews seeking to go to Israel is no more an internal matter of the USSR than were the Nazi concentration camps an internal matter of Germany.
Mrs. Butman urged the American government and private individuals to keep pressing the Soviet government and Soviet Ambassador in Washington. Anatoly F. Dobrynin. on the conditions of the prisoners. She also urged that the U.S. seek to talk to prisoners to corroborate whatever is said by the authorities about the prisoners’ conditions.
Families of prisoners are pressured to leave the Soviet Union, according to Mrs. Butman, because the Soviets regard this as an extra punishment for the prisoners who will then find it even harder to endure their imprisonment with their relatives in another country. She charged that Mendel-vich’s parents, who are his only relatives still in the USSR are harassed to leave and his father has been beaten on the street by a gang of hooligans.
Meanwhile, the National Conference reported today that three Soviet Jews have been given permission to emigrate. They are Arkady Rabinoff and his wife, and Valery Kukhamerets. The Conference also reported that the parents and aunt of Gregory Kochuk, who emigrated to the U.S. in Jan., were detained at the border for three hours as they were about to leave the USSR. Kochuk’s father is in prison and his mother who has a heart condition is interrogated daily by the KGB.