LONDON (Aug. 18)
In an official statement Amnesty International expressed its “shock,” at the confirmation of Dr. Heinrich Spetter’s death sentence and disclosed that the organization’s secretary general, Martin Ennals, had appealed in a cable to Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria’s head of state, to commute the sentence. Amnesty stressed that “the Bulgarian authorities had not released a single piece of evidence to justify the charge of espionage against Dr. Spetter,” adding that “we believe the charge of spying is groundless.”
The statement further noted the approaching 30th anniversary of the “Day of Freedom” which is an occasion when amnesties are usually announced in Bulgaria, and suggested that appeals for clemency to the Bulgarian authorities should “express the hope that such a great national festival should not be marred by a confirmation of the death sentence on an innocent man.” Bulgaria’s “Day of Freedom” will be celebrated Sept 9.
WAVE OF PROTEST MOUNTS
Meanwhile, a protest wave has been gathering momentum here this weekend against the Bulgarian Supreme Court’s decision to confirm Dr. Spetter’s death sentence. Several British organizations and individuals have already appealed to Zhivkov to exercise clemency. Others were expected to follow suit shortly.
Ian Mikardo, MP. Parliamentary chairman of the Labor Party, who has special connections with Bulgaria, sent an appeal to Zhivkov. At the same time, a group of British economists were meeting in London to consider joint action. British economists have already supported an appeal for clemency by several American colleagues, including Nobel Prize winners Paul Samuelson and Simon Kuznets.
OFFICIAL DENIAL DISMISSED
Aware of the mounting indignation, Bulgaria’s official news agency has issued a statement denying that the Supreme Court had already reached its decision on Dr. Spetter’s appeal. The statement was monitored here by Radio Free Europe, but Amnesty international sources have dismissed the Bulgarian denial, stressing that they had ample evidence that the death sentence had indeed been confirmed.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews announced that it would act through all channels, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in an effort to get Dr. Spetter’s death sentence commuted. Victor Lucas, the president of the Anglo-Jewish Association, sent a cable to Zhivkov saying he was “horrified to learn” that the death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court and requested that the State Council “exercise prerogative of clemency.”