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U.S. Calls Punishment of Slepak, Nudel ‘unduly Harsh'; Will Press for Their Emigration Rights

The United States today characterized the Soviet government’s punishment of Jewish activists Vladimir Slepak and Ida Nudel as “unduly harsh” and declared that it would press for their emigration from the USSR. In Congress, voices were raised in protest against the sentencing in Moscow yesterday of Slepak and Nudel to exile in Siberia. Slepak was given five years and Nudel four.

In an unusual gesture of protest, Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D.Pa.) broke off arrangements with the Soviet government over a planned trip to the Soviet Union. The Soviets had invited Eilberg and his wife to visit the USSR for two weeks as the guests of the government this summer or in early autumn. “It is incumbent on me to send a message to the Soviets that they must live up to the international agreements they have signed concerning human rights,” Eilberg said.

U.S. EMBASSY INSTRUCTED TO ACT

The State Department said in a written statement today that the efforts of Slepak and his family and of Nudel to emigrate from the Soviet Union “have long been of concern to us. We have raised the Slepak case on numerous occasions with the Soviet authorities our concern for Ida Nudel. We regret the decision of the Soviet government to put Slepak and Nudel on trial for openly expressing their desire to emigrate. These decisions and the sentences imposed on them seem to us unduly harsh and clearly incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Helsinki Formal Act signed by the Soviet Union in August, 1975.”

The statement said the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been instructed to raise the Slepak case again with the Soviet authorities. “We intend to continue to press the Soviet authorities on the emigration care of Ida Nudel,” it added. The State Department also noted that the Embassy in Moscow sent observers to the Slepak and Nudel trials “but the Embassy representatives were not allowed to enter the courtrooms, ostensibly because the galleries were full.”

Slepak and his wife, Maria, were arrested on June I when they hung a sign from the balcony of their Moscow flat demanding the right to be reunited with their son in Israel. Nudel was arrested a day later when she and 13 others demonstrated against the arrest of the Slepaks. (See related stories on Page 3.)

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