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Lawmaker Urges Chernenko to Grant Soviet Refuseniks Right to Emigrate

More than 100 members of the House have joined Rep. Ted Weiss (D.N.Y.) in writing to Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko urging him to permit Zachar Zunshein and Grigory Geishis to emigrate to Israel.

Zunshein was arrested on March 4, after he, his wife, and a relative stood on a street corner in Moscow bearing a sign that read: “Please give us exit visas.” Zunshein was later convicted of “anti-Soviet slander.”

Geishis has been continually denied an exit visa since he first applied to emigrate to Israel in 1978. In May 1980, Geishis was sentenced to two years in a labor camp for refusing to enter the Soviet army.

“Cases such as those of Zunshein and Geishis have become all too common in the Soviet Union where Jews are imprisoned for the ‘crime’ of wanting to emigrate,” Weiss said. To free Zunshein and Geishis, Weiss wrote to Chernenko, “would be a significant humanitarian gesture on your part, and would contribute to improved relations between our two countries.”

“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Soviet Union, and when the number of Jews allowed to emigrate is at an all time low,” Weiss said, “it is important for Americans to speak out on behalf of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union.”

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