PARIS (Nov. 7)
President Francois Mitterrand has promised to intercede with Soviet authorities on behalf of Jewish Prisoner of Conscience Anatoly Shcharansky who began an indefinite hunger strike on the eve of Yom Kippur. Government sources said that Mitterrand was “deeply moved” by the plea of Shcharansky’s friends in France and also fully realized the “symbolic importance” of the case.
The President last week met with some of Shcharansky’s supporters, a group of scientists and intellectuals led by mathematician Laurent Schwartz, who described in detail the condition of Shcharansky’s imprisonment, his hunger strike and his rapidly deteriorating health.
Several French political parties, including the Socialists, the Gaullists and the main trade unions, have appealed to Mitterrand to inform the Soviet Union of France’s concern about Shcharansky. The Catholic Church and the Protestant Federation joined France’s Chief Rabbi in asking for the French government’s intervention on the Jewish prisoner’s behalf.
At the same time, the Communist Party Secretary General Georges Marchais announced that he is “fully conscious” of Shcharansky’s serious condition and said that he and the party are acting on behalf of Shcharansky. It is believed that Marchais has personally appealed to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, warning him that the Shcharansky case is seriously harming the Communist cause in France and in the rest of Western Europe.
Meanwhile, Soviet human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov has appealed to Pope John Paul II, Italian Communist Party leader Enrico Berlinguer and Mitterrand to assist in saving Shcharansky’s life. The open letter, which was given to foreign journalists in Moscow on October 30 by Sakharov’s wife, Yelena Bonner, said that Shcharansky’s life is in “extreme danger” because of his hunger strike but that he could be saved by world public pressure exerted on Soviet authorities.