NEW YORK (Dec. 16)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, appealed yesterday to President Nikolai Podgorny of the Soviet Union, to commute the death sentence imposed last week on Mikhail Leviev, a Moscow Jew charged with economic crimes. In a similar action, Kings County District Attorney, Eugene Gold, chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, cabled Soviet officials here and in Moscow to urge that the “inhumane” death sentence against Leviev be commuted immediately.
The actions came in response to an urgent appeal from Sophia Leviev, whose husband Mikhail, 56, was sentenced to death Dec. 8 by the Moscow Municipal Court on charges of “economic crimes” and for so-called “anti-Soviet activity.” Originally from Bukhara, the Leviev family received permission to emigrate to Israel in 1972. However, only a few days before their scheduled departure, Leviev was detained by Soviet police, and a two-and-a-half-year investigation by Soviet authorities ensued, leading to the trial last week. He was accused of “fraud and embezzlement.”
Dr. Goldmann’s cable, sent from New York to Podgorny, stated: “Mr. President, on behalf of the World Jewish Congress representing affiliated communities in 65 countries, I respectfully appeal to you to commute the death sentence imposed by the Moscow court on Mikhail Leviev. Such a humanitarian gesture would be a source of encouragement to all who seek to promote de encouragement and better understanding among nations.”
REMINISCENT OF EARLIER TRIALS
Gold declared that “this harsh sentence is reminiscent of the infamous economic trials in the early 1960’s, when many Jews were sentenced to death for alleged economic crimes.” He warned that “the Leviev case could be the start of a new series of trials that would be part of the USSR’s unremitting campaign to intimidate and terrify would-be applicants for exit visas.”
Gold urged that Leviev’s death sentence be commuted in wires to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and to Soviet Procurator Rudenko in Moscow. Rudenko is the counterpart to the U.S. Attorney General. Thousands of telegrams from throughout the Metropolitan area have been sent by Conference member agencies, urging U.S. officials to intervene on behalf of Leviev. Leviev had been working in a government store until 1971, when he initially applied for a visa to emigrate. Gold States. The two-year investigation, he pointed out, is highly irregular, as Soviet law states that the limit for such proves is nine months.
Commenting on the trial, Stanley H. Lowell, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, urged “strenuous reaction in response to what is virtually a reversion to Judicial barbarism. This latest instance of flagrant violation of the spirit of detente is particularly heinous in the magnitude of the punishment meted out. and casts doubt on the seriousness of the agreements that are being worked out at this very moment.” Lowell also noted that in holding Leviev for a two-year investigation period “the Soviet Union violated its own constitutional norms and denied the defendant due process of law.”
In a separate action, 15 members of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry demonstrated yesterday in front of the office of Aeroflot, the Soviet airline. in protest against the death sentence.