Soviet Jewish Prisoners Said to Be in Desperate Straits

“I am speaking in the name of all the (Soviet Jewish) prisoners. The people are in desperate straits. They have waited 5, 7, 10 years for their beloved ones…. We demand the intervention of international organizations on the conditions of the prisoners.” These were the words of Chaim Drori, an Israeli citizen who recently emigrated from the Soviet Union and whose brother-in-law, Yosif Mendelevich, is a prisoner in a Soviet labor camp. Mendelevich was sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp in the first Leningrad trial in Dec. 1970.

Drori, along with Mrs. Eva Butman and Julia Dymshitz came to the United States last week to seek help not only for their imprisoned relatives but all Soviet Jews. Drori and Mrs. Butman held a press conference today with New York State Commissioner of Human Rights Jack Sable at his offices in Manhattan. Julia Dymshitz, who did not attend the press conference, was in California talking with officials and Jewish groups there.

For the past 10 days, the three have been meeting with Senators, Congressmen and other government officials as well as some United Nations officials to do what they can to convince the U.S. government that action must be taken to intervene on the part of Jews in Soviet prison camps. Those prisoners are living a subbuman existence on food that is not fit for human consumption and in conditions akin to those of Nazi concentration camps, they said.

Sable asserted that the cause of basic human rights knows no geographical boundaries, and that “concerned people everywhere must do what they can on behalf of those who have been deprived their liberty and their dignity.” He further pointed out that the Soviet Union is in violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights which it signed over 25 years ago.

Sable expressed regret that President Nixon has not taken an official stand on this and that “as of late it seems that this country is more concerned with material things.” He expressed hope that the UN will break its silence on this issue and take the necessary steps to alleviate the suffering of those in the Soviet Union, As yet the UN has taken no action against the USSR because of internal politics. Sable asserted. Sanctioning or condemning Russia reeks of big power politics which, as the UN sees it, is obviously too not to handle, he added.

EFFECTIVELY CURTAILED ACTIVITIES

Mrs. Butman told the press that the roundup of Soviet Jews prior to Nixon’s Moscow visit was very effective in curtailing their protest activities. Since Nixon’s visit, no word from the prison camps about relatives has gotten through, she noted. Prior to the visit, periodic letters had gotten out of the prison camps. Most letters written were not received, but there was some word, she said.

Mrs. Butman’s husband, Hillel Butman, was convicted three years ago during the second Leningrad trial and sentenced to 10 years in strict regime in a labor camp. Butman was recently sentenced to five months solitary confinement for participating in a hunger strike on the eve of Nixon’s visit to protest and bring attention to the substandard food and living conditions of the prisoners. Mendelevich’s family is constantly harassed by the police and they have been threatened with expulsion from the Soviet Union because they dared speak out against his treatment, Mrs. Butman reported.

The father of Julia Dymshitz. Mark Dymshitz, was sentenced to death in the Leningrad trial for allegedly trying to hijack an airliner to Israel. After worldwide outrage at the sentence, it was commuted to 15 years.

The three activists left today for London where they will meet with Amnesty International in the hopes of securing assistance. They then return to Israel.

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