NEW YORK (Aug. 25)
The Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry has hailed the release of Sylva Zalmanson, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1970 on charges of attempting to hijack a Soviet aircraft. However, Eugene Gold, conference chair man, in welcoming the release stressed that “we will not relent in our efforts to gain the freedom of scores of others who are held captive in Soviet labor camps solely because of their desire to emigrate.”
Miss Zalmanson was released Thursday only 24 hours after her father, Joseph Zalmanson had been given notice that his petition for clemency for Sylva, incarcerated and ill in the notorious Potma labor camp, had been rejected by the Supreme Soviet. Miss Zalmanson’s plight had been the focal point of Jewish groups throughout the world. The Greater New York Conference held a “Free Sylva” rally only a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Miss Zalmanson said that while emigration to Israel was the “aim of my life” she did not want to leave the country immediately, as officials are insisting, without seeing her two brothers and her husband, who also were sentenced in the alleged hijack attempt during the first Leningrad trial. She said she had not seen them since they were all arrested in June, 1970 and would ask Soviet authorities to also pardon them.
SEEN AS SOVIET CONCESSION TO U.S.
Since her release, Miss Zalmanson has been staying at the summer cottage outside Moscow of Andrei D. Sakharov. the physicist and leading Soviet dissident. Sakharov, who is not Jewish, told Western newsmen yesterday that Miss Zalmanson was taken by KGB agents for a two-hour visit with her husband, Edouard Kuznetsov.
Kuznetsov had originally been sentenced to death during the first Leningrad trial but the sentence was later commuted to 15 years imprisonment as a result of worldwide outcry. Miss Zalmanson’s brother, Israel, was sentenced to eight years at the trial and her other brother, Vulf, to 10 years. The 30-year-old Miss Zalmanson is a mechanical engineer who formerly worked in a Riga factory. She married Kuznetsov in 1970.
The struggle for Sylva’s release began almost as soon as she was sentenced. Protests and demonstrations were held regularly in many countries but were all futile. Political sources here suggested the surprise release might be a Soviet gesture to influence impending discussion on the Jackson Amendment to the Trade Reform bill and also a form of support to President Ford who has given hints of a Soviet readiness to discontinue persecution of Jews wishing to leave Russia.