Menu JTA Search

Leningrad Arrests Marked

Local Jewish groups marked the eighth anniversary today of the arrests of the Soviet Jews who became the defendants in the first Leningrad hijack trial of 1970. Most are still serving sentences in Soviet prisons or forced labor camps. Members of Concerned Jewish Youth staged a “Leningrad Plus 8″ protest outside of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations.

They held up photographs of the Leningrad defendants and noted that eight years later “other brave Jews again face trial for their efforts to go to Israel.” They mentioned Anatoly Shcharansky, who faces trial for treason which carries a possible death penalty; Vladimir and Maria Slepak, arrested June 2 for demanding the right to emigrate, who were charged with “malicious hooliganism”; and Ida Nudel, arrested on the same charge for protesting the Slepaks’ arrest.

At the same time, Abram Balsham, 69 and his wife, Maria, 62, began a vigil at the Isaiah Wall across the street from UN headquarters. They are protesting the refusal of the Soviet authorities to grant an exit visa to their son, Peter, and his wife and child who live in Tashkent. When the Balshams were allowed to leave Russia in 1976, they were promised by officials that their son and his family could follow in a few months, according to the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.

(In London today, more than 20 prominent British writers delivered a letter to the Soviet Embassy appealing for the release of Eduard Kuznetsov, one of the first Leningrad trial defendants who is serving a 15-year sentence in a labor camp and permission for him to join his wife, Silva Zalmanson, in Israel. The letter was signed, among others, by playwrights Lord Willis, Harold Pinter, Arnold Wesker and Tom Stoppard and novelists Alan Coren, Alan Sillitoe, Gerda Charles, John Braine and Iris Murdoch and Jon Silkin, a poet.

(In Paris, a group of Jewish community leaders, headed by Chief Rabbi Jacob Kaplan and Baron Alain de Rothschild, tried unsuccessfully to deliver a petition to the Soviet Embassy asking the release of Kuznetsov and Shcharansky. They stood in the rain outside the Embassy gates which remained closed.)

NEXT STORY