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Shcharansky Ends His Hunger Strike

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Imprisoned Soviet Jewish activist Anatoly Shcharansky, currently completing the fifth year of a 13-year sentence at the notorious Chistipol Prison, has ended his nearly five-month hunger strike to protest the denial of mail and visits from members of his family, privileges allowed to other prisoners, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) and the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews (UCSJ) confirmed here today.

According to the SSSJ and the UCSJ, this information was revealed in a letter Shcharansky wrote, dated February 7 and received yesterday by his mother, Ida Milgrom, in Moscow, that he had re- sumed eating on January 14. Since then, the letter said, he has been receiving food with vitamins and slowly regaining some weight. But Shcharansky wrote that he continues to suffer from severe heart pains and is unable to participate in the half hour of daily exercise in the prison courtyard, which is the only exercise the inmates receive, the Soviet Jewish groups reported.

Shcharansky ended his hunger strike, which he began on September 27, after he received two heavily censored notes from his mother who in January tried in vain to see him personally. According to published reports today, Mrs. Milgrom was denied access to her son because Shcharansky was still on a hunger strike. But on January 14, the prison officials permitted an exchange of notes, and it was this exchange that is reported to have prompted the Soviet Jewish activist to end his hunger strike.

There have been recent reports that Shcharansky had ended his hunger strike, notably through a letter Yuri Andropov, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, wrote to French Communist Party secretary general George Marchais stating that Shcharansky ended his strike, was in contact with his mother, and that “he is in satisfactory condition and nothing seems to threaten his life.” The letter was published on January 24 in the French Communist Party organ, L’Humanite.

Shcharansky’s wife, Avital, now in Paris campaigning for her husband’s release, said: “I am extremely concerned about my husband’s condition. I ask the Soviet government to immediately release my husband to permit him to recover from his greatly deteriorated condition.” Andropov hinted in his letter to Marchais that Shcharansky’s sentence might be reduced were it not for the “stormy campaigns and foreign pressures” on his behalf.

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