Debate Widens over Type of Response U.S. Should Take Following Harsh Sentences for Shcharansky, Gins
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Debate Widens over Type of Response U.S. Should Take Following Harsh Sentences for Shcharansky, Gins

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The debate widened today over the type of response the United States should make following the harsh sentences last week for Soviet Jewish activist Anatoly Shcharansky and two other Soviet dissidents. Jews and non-Jews urged various moves, including the immediate halt of all export licenses for sales to the Soviet Union, the end of all trade agreements with the USSR, a ban on cultural and educational exchanges and removing the 1980 Olympics from Moscow.

This approach is being challenged by others, particularly in the State Department, who believe it will be counter-productive. President Carter has said he would continue to try to help Shcharansky and others but was not specific on how he would do so.

Shcharansky was sentenced Friday in Moscow to 13 years for treason, three years in jail and the remaining 10 in a “strict regime” labor camp, the second harshest type of labor camp. He was also sentenced to seven years in a labor camp for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, but that is to run concurrently with his present sentence.

The day before Shcharansky’s sentence, Alexander Ginzburg was sentences in Kaluga, 100 miles south of Moscow, to eight years in a “special regime” labor camp, the toughest of the four types, for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. Shcharansky and Ginsburg were both members of the Moscow group monitoring Soviet compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Agreement. Also sentenced last Thursday was Viktoras Petkus, a member of the Lithuanian section of the monitoring group, who received a three-year prison term followed by seven years in a labor camp.


Immediately after Shcharansky’s sentence, President Carter, who was in Bonn, West Germany, said he was saddened by the new. “We are all sobered by this reminder that so late in the 20th. century, a person can be sent to jail simply for asserting his basic human rights,” Carter said. He promised that “our voice will not be stilled” in the struggle for human rights. However, he stressed that he will not permit this to interfere with efforts to reach an agreement on nuclear weapons limitations with the Soviet Union.

But Shcharansky’s wife, Avital, who arrived in Washington Friday from Geneva where she had met with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, asserted: “It’s not enough that the United States speak out. It’s time we carry out some action.” Mrs. Shcharansky learned of her husband’s sentence only after she got off the plane in Washington. She wept briefly. “Thirteen years is much to much to spend,” she said, “15 days is too much for a person who is not guilty of anything.”


There were reports from Administration sources with Carter in West Germany that the U.S. is considering trading two Soviet diplomats arrested in New Jersey as suspected spies for Shcharansky and possibly others. When asked about her reaction to this during a television appearance Friday night on the Public Broadcasting System’s “Mac-Neil/Lehrer Report,” Mrs. Shcharansky was both ambivalent and disturbed.

She said she feared that it might be used by the Soviets as proof that her husband was a spy for the CIA, which she stressed he was not. At the same time, she said she would welcome any move that might free her husband and allow him to join her in Israel.

Mrs. Shcharansky said she had come to the U.S. to seek help both from the government and the American people. “You have come to a place where you can find help,” she was told by Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Calif.) who also appeared on the program. Mrs. Shcharansky is scheduled to hold a press conference at the Capitol tomorrow and then meet with Vice President Walter Mondale. While in Europe, she spoke by telephone with Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, the President’s wife, and his mother, Mrs. Lilliam Carter, both of whom promised help for her husband.


The first direct reaction to the Shcharansky sentencing came from New York University whose president, John Sawhill, announced yesterday that the university was cancelling the upcoming visits by three Russian scientists–two of them for as long as 10 months–to NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Science. He has also asked the faculty to postpone all other scholastic or applied research programs with the USSR and has urged other universities and faculties in the U.S. to do the same thing until the Soviet Union recognizes “just human rights under Soviet and international law, as well as the right of free emigration.”

In Washington, Sen. Wendell Anderson (D.Minn.) disclosed that he will present a “sense of the Senate” resolution Tuesday to urge the U.S. Olympic Committee to immediately begin seeking a new site for the 1980 Olympics. Meanwhile, Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D.NY) has written Carter and Vance saying that the U.S. “will have no choice but to withdraw” from participation in the Moscow games if the prosecutions being undertaken by the Soviet Union now are used to destroy the Soviet dissident movement.

Sen. Jacob Javits (R.NY), Daniel P. Moynihan (D.NY) and others called for U.S. retaliation by blocking computer sales and other commercial deals with the Soviet Union. Javits said the U.S. might escalate its moves even to the SALT agreement, although other Senators, including Cranston, agreed with Carter that the SALT talks should be viewed separately. But AFL-CIO president George Meany said that if the Carter Administration persists in the view that there should be no “linkage” between human rights and SALT “it will be acquiescing in the Soviet view” that the Helsinki agreement on human rights is “unenforceable.”


The reaction of Jewish groups was especially strong. Some 50 members of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ), carrying suitcases with warm clothing in front of the Soviet Aeroflot airline in midtown Manhattan Friday, offered themselves as “hostages” in place of Shcharansky. The youths said their offer was made “with deliberate thought and utmost sincerity to spare an innocent man 13 years of hell, and to allow him to rejoin his wife in Israel.”

Aeroflot personnel called the police, who rushed a phalanx of officers to the scene, blocking the doors. When the SSSJ phoned, an Aeroflot representative shouted that the matter was an “internal affair” and slammed the phone down. The students promised to return.

The sentence against Shcharansky was also denounced as “savage” by the World Jewish Congress, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee. Also condemning the Soviet Action were B’nai B’rith, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Public Affairs Committee of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago; the Secretariat of Catholic-Jewish Relations of the U.S. National Conference of Bishops, and the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

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