NEW YORK (Mar. 13)
An edict against “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” was expanded by Soviet authorities last month to include anyone receiving “financial” or other “material” assistance from “foreign organizations or persons acting on behalf of such organizations,” according to information made available to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ). Violation of this edict carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in a labor camp and five years internal exile.
The edict is an expansion of paragraph two of Article 70 of the Russian Republic’s Criminal Code together with the corresponding sections of the other 14 republics. Paragraph two used to apply only to those previously convinced of “especially dangerous crimes against the state” or of crimes committed in wartime.
IMPLICATIONS ARE SEVERE
The implications of the expansion are severe, according to Morris Abram, NCSJ chairman. Because no specific forms of material aid are cited, anyone receiving packages from abroad could be open to prosecution, he noted. The reference to foreign organizations is equally vague, Abram, a prominent attorney, said. They do not have to be “anti-Soviet,” nor must their “agents” be members.
Abram pointed out that the expansion of the edict could serve as a pretext for further jeopardizing contacts between Soviet Jews and the West. Observing that the new clause was implemented before Yuri Andropov’s death, Abram said it appears to be a continuation of the restrictive measures effected under the late Soviet leader.
He noted that, in following the trend toward efficiency set by Andropov, it may be an attempt to streamline criminal procedure by allowing a broad range of potential “offenders” to be subsumed under one statute.