PARIS (Jan. 24)
Yuri Andropov, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, claims that imprisoned Jewish activist Anatoly Shcharansky has ended his hunger strike and is in “a satisfactory condition.”
The Soviet leader also hinted that Shcharansky’s 13-year sentence might be reduced were it not for the international pressure campaign on his behalf. Those statements by Andropov were published today in the French Communist Party organ L’ Humanite, in a letter to Georges Marchais, secretary general of the party. The letter was Andropov’s reply to a request by Marchais for information about Shcharansky. The French Communist leader had been contacted earlier by the French Committee for Shcharansky’s Liberation.
(Soviet Jewry sources in New York and Washington had no information to confirm that Shcharansky has ended his fast, begun last September. Recent reports from the USSR quoted Soviet officials as saying Shcharansky was being force-fed.)
CP LEADER NOT SATISFIED WITH ANDROPOV’S REPLY
Le Monde quoted Marchais today as saying he was “not” satisfied with Andropov’s reply. French sources believe he will contact the Kremlin leader again on the matter. Should Shcharansky be freed, credit for achieving this would be of considerable help to Communist candidates in France’s municipal elections next March.
Much of Andropov’s letter was devoted to restating Shcharansky’s “guilt” for the crime of “espionage.” He allegedly “supplied the American secret service with information concerning the Soviet Union’s defense industry,” Andropov wrote. The Soviet leader insisted that Shcharansky’s “guilt” was “demonstrated and proven in court with irrefutable evidence.”
However, he wrote, “Soviet law does not exclude the possibility of shortening his sentence in reply to a request for early release. But according to Soviet law such a decision depends on the prisoner’s good behavior. It is obvious that such a possibility is not helped by stormy campaigns or foreign pressures. On the contrary, they prevent” his liberation, Andropov’s letter said.
It said that “Shcharansky started a hunger strike in order to exert pressure on Soviet justice” but “recently he was in contact with his mother and stopped his hunger strike. He is in satisfactory condition and nothing seems to threaten his life.”
According to Soviet Jewry sources, Shcharansky began his hunger strike to protest the denial of mail and visits by members of his family, privileges allowed other prisoners. His 77-year-old mother, Ida Milgrom, recently travelled to Chistipol prison where Shcharansky is incarcerated but was not permitted to see him, the sources have reported.