Yugoslavs Expel 15 Women Who Accused Soviets of Breaching Helsinki Accord
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Yugoslavs Expel 15 Women Who Accused Soviets of Breaching Helsinki Accord

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The Yugoslav government today expelled 15 Jewish women who came to Belgrade from 13 Western countries to demonstrate for the rights of Soviet Jews at the opening there of the 35-nation Preparatory Conference on compliance with the provisions of the 1974 Helsinki agreement. According to reports from Belgrade this morning, four of the women were arrested when they attempted to hand out leaflets accusing the Soviets of non-compliance with the Helsinki Human Rights provisions.

They were identified as Doreen Gainsford and Linda Isaacs of London, Pat Allin of Southampton and Estelle Stern Eilers of Dusseldorf, West Germany. They and the other women are associated with the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry, also known as the “35 Group.” They came from the United States, Belgium, France, Canada, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Before she left England, Gainsford told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that she expected to face arrest in Belgrade. She was arrested in Helsinki two years ago and in London when she chained herself to the Foreign Office railings during a demonstration for Soviet Jews. The “35 Group” called on the Foreign Office today to intervene immediately for the release of the women.


In another development, prominent members of the House of Lords accused the Soviet Union last night of breaching the Helsinki agreement in its treatment of Russian Jews. The Duke of Devonshire, addressing the chamber, said Soviet harassment of Jews who wished to leave the USSR was “in direct contradiction” of the Helsinki accord and showed the “hollowness” of the Russians’ signature.

The Duke urged the British government to take up the case of Vladimir Prestin, a distinguished electrical engineer who has been applying to leave Russia with his family since 1970. Another Conservative Peer, the Earl of Dundee, said no government in any country had a moral right to prevent its inhabitants who wished to emigrate from doing so. If they did, those people were nothing more than serfs bound by law to the soil.

Foreign Office Minister of State, Lord Goronwy-Roberts assured the Lords that the government was taking the action it considered most effective and prudent. Lord Trefgarne, summing up for the opposition, said too much should not be expected from the Belgrade talks. There had been improvements and the Russians had taken some notice of the agreement. It was up to the West to persuade rather than bludgeon Russia to ease the plight of its Jews.

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