Death Sentence for Leviev Commuted to 15 Years in Prison

The death sentence imposed by the Moscow Municipal Court in December, 1974 on Mikhail Leviev has been commuted to 15 years in prison, according to reports received by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. Leviev, the manager of a store in Moscow, had been charged with “economic crimes” and “anti-Soviet activity.”

According to Malcolm Hoenlein, GNYCSJ director, Leviev had applied for and received permission to emigrate to Israel together with his family. A few days prior to their scheduled departure, Leviev was detained by Soviet police and held incommunicado while a two-and-a-half year investigation was undertaken, leading to the trial. Three non-Jews, tried along with Leviev on similar charges, received five to nine years sentences. Because Leviev allegedly would not cooperate with the prosecutor, he alone was condemned to death.

As soon as word of the death sentence was received in the West, thousands of telegrams and appeals were sent to the Moscow Procurator and other Soviet officials. Part of the campaign in the West include demonstrations organized by the GNYCSJ and other Soviet Jewry groups; protests by Congressmen, District Attorneys and other elected officials; as well as appeals by Leviev’s wife.

Robert Abrams, GNY CSJ chairman, said that the commutation is once again an indication of the potential effectiveness of pressure from the West. He added that these actions, and many others, may well have been the critical factors in saving Leviev’s life.

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