NEW YORK (Mar. 15)
In an attempt to secure the release of Anatoly Shcharansky and other political and Jewish activists imprisoned in the Soviet Union, John C. Sawhill, president of New York University, yesterday extended on open invitation to the Soviet government to allow Shcharansky to participate in the university commencement program in June.
“I am sending a formal letter to the Soviet government,” Sawhill said, “asking for permission to have him in New York City for this event. And, I call on the United States Congress and President Carter to use all available means at their disposal to support New York University in this endeavor.”
Further, in an attempt to mobilize a broad base of university support to secure Shcharansky’s release, Sawhill called “on university presidents throughout this country, throughout the free world, and throughout the Soviet Union to extend a similar invitation for their commencement programs.”
Sawhill spoke at a press conference at the St Regis Hotel announcing the formation of the New York Committee of Conscience. The newly formed committee serves to increase awareness of the problem of Soviet Jewish prisoners. Sawhill serves as co-chairman of the committee, along with New York Attorney General Robert Abrams.
Abrams described some of the legal briefs and other interventions that will be taken on behalf of the prisoners, such as a request for amnesty. In addition, he called on the Soviet Union to adhere to its own legal code and release those prisoners who have served more than two-thirds of their terms.
As a reaction to the conviction of Shcharansky last July, Sawhill requested that the faculty of New York University postpone any further scholastic or applied research programs with the Soviets, and called on faculties elsewhere to take similar steps until the Soviets released Shcharansky.
The press conference coincided with the second anniversary of Shcharansky’s imprisonment. The conference was also held to kick off Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry, April 29, which will be dedicated this year to the 25 known Soviet Prisoners of Conscience. Solidarity Sunday will begin at the St. Regis Hotel and march to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza opposite the United Nations.