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‘grave Concern’ Expressed over Three Soviet Jewish Activists Currently Awaiting Trial

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) has expressed “grave concern” over the conditions of three Soviet Jewish activists and Hebrew teachers currently awaiting trial, Aleksandr Kholmiansky, Yuli Edelstein and Yakov Mesh.

Kholmiansky, arrested in July for allegedly “possessing weapons and ammunition,” is currently in the third month of a hunger strike begun to protest the beatings he received when he arrived in prison.

Although a medical commission which recently examined Kholmiansky at the request of Soviet authorities determined his condition was “not life threatening,” medical experts have noted in the past that such a lengthy fast can produce irreversible physical damage.

While variables such as the individual’s weight and general health must be considered, nutrition experts at Cornell University Medical School estimate that a hunger strike can sustain life for 30-35 days if water is ingested.

DANGER OF FORCE-FEEDING

Although authorities are now “force-feeding” Kholmiansky, former Prisoner of Conscience losif Mendelevich, who himself carried on a 54-day hunger strike during his lengthy imprisonment, noted this procedure can be “more painful than a continuous hunger strike.” Mendelevich, who emigrated to Israel in 1980, recalled the “fiercely sophisticated form of torture,” the NCSJ reported.

“Guards enter the cell, attack the prisoner… they force open his mouth with a special instrument,” Mendelevich said. “An 0.8 centimeter tube is placed in the prisoner’s mouth with direct access to the stomach; 1,000 calories of liquid food is poured through the tube. If the hunger striker stops the flow — then the tube is shoved up his nose.”

Aside from the brutal physical treatment, Mendelevich stated that “this type of feeding harms the body’s metabolism and causes painful headaches and stomach aches. As it is given between long breaks, it forces the prisoner to start the hunger strike over and over again.”

THE PLIGHT OF EDELSTEIN

Edelstein, detained on charges of “drug possession” since September, has recently completed seven days in solitary confinement, according to the NCSJ. He is also on a hunger strike following the confiscation of religious articles he had with him in the prison. Although the investigation of Edelstein’s case in now complete and he is expected to be tried shortly, the lawyer retained by Edelstein’s wife, Tanya, now claims that he was “made dirty” by the case, and that he is “unable” to defend him.

MESH IS ‘DANGEROUSLY III’

Finally, Mesh is reported as “dangerously ill” by the NCSJ as a result of beating he received upon arrival at the prison. After sustaining injuries to the lower abdomen and liver, he is diagnosed as suffering from hepatitis. No trial date has been set for Mesh, who is charged with allegedly “resisting arrest” and “refusing to give testimony.”

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