NEW YORK (Jul. 13)
A Soviet court in Kaluga today sentenced Jewish dissident Alexander Ginzberg to eight years in a labor camp of the “special regime” type, the toughest of four regimes in Soviet labor camps, on charges of anti-Soviet propaganda and circulating subversive literature.
It was also reported from Moscow today that the prosecution in the trial of dissident Anatoly Shcharansky asked for a 15-year sentence, three years to be served in prison and 12 years in a labor camp. Shcharansky is being tried in Moscow for treason which carries a maximum penalty of death. His sentence is expected to be handed down tomorrow. Both Shcharansky and Ginzberg were members of the dissident group monitoring Soviet compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.
A member of the Lithuanian section of the monitoring group, Viktoras Petkus, was sentenced in Vilnius, Lithuania today to three years in prison and seven years in a labor camp, it was reported from Moscow.
MEANY DENOUNCES TRIALS
The reverberations of the Shcharansky and Ginzberg trials continued around the world. In Washington today, AFL-CIO president George Meany called the proceedings “an outrage” and “a sobering reminder of the inhumanity and brutality–and the fundamental weakness–of the Soviet system.” He called on the
In a statement to the press, Meany said, “Only a cowardly regime which fears truth would bring the weight of the whole state down on two individuals for simply seeking to exercise the most elementary human rights.” He stated that “these trials make a shambles of the Helsinki accords, thus posing a grave challenge to President Carter’s human rights campaign, to the whole range of U.S.-Soviet relations and to the overall conduct of U.S. foreign policy.”
Meany said that “as far as the AFL-CIO is concerned, the human rights provisions of the Final Act are the heart and soul of the Helsinki agreements….If the accord cannot be enforced, then it should be abrogated.” He insisted that “there must be a direct link between the trials and the SALT talks.” Meany said he disagreed with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on this.
“The issue is not as the Secretary of State says, whether an acceleration of the arms race is more important than the fate of individual dissidents. The issue is whether the SALT agreement would be enforceable. At very least, the talks should be postponed.” In New York, Jacob Sheinkman, president of the Jewish Labor Committee and secretary-treasurer of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, AFL-CIO, hailed Meany’s statement as representing the sentiments of the American labor movement.
CONTINUING INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS
Overseas, some of the strongest denunciations of the Shcharansky and Ginzberg trials continued to come from Western Communist parties. The Italian Communist Party, the largest in Western Europe, deplored the Soviet practice of holding “political” trials.
In a statement issued in Rome, the party said: “We do not know the ideas held by the defendants, but in our opinion the holding and profession of ideas cannot be the subject of judicial proceedings.” The statement added that the frequency of such trials in the USSR raised suspicion that they are intended to curb activities over which there may be disagreement but which, nonetheless, are legitimate in a democratic system.
In Melbourne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrew Peacock, expressed “serious concern” over the trials and appealed to the Soviet leadership to show greater sensitivity to the need to guarantee human rights. Describing Shcharansky and Ginzberg as leading campaigners for human rights, Peacock said:
“Such an extended campaign against courageous men of good will, despite firm appeals from many Western countries, costs doubts on the USSR’s professed intention to honor its international obligations to improve human rights.”
In Hartford, Gov. Ella Grasso of Connecticut called the trials “a mockery of the concept of freedom of speech and the basic ideal of justice.” Only hours before the sentence of Ginzberg was announced, the Connecticut Committee of Elected Officials of Concern for Soviet Jewry reported that they had cabled Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to “use your good office to ensure that Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Ginzberg are given every opportunity to respond to the charges made and that these proceedings will not be used for political purposes.” The group consists of members of the State Senate and Assembly.
A demonstration yesterday outside the court-house in Monticello, New York, drew 400-500 persons. The protestors celled on the U.S. to cancel the SALT talks with the Soviet Union and end scientific, technological and trade exchanges with that country. The rally was sponsored by Camp Tagola, a Jewish summer camp headed by Rabbi Avraham Weiss of Riverdale, N.Y.