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Gorky Hebrew Teacher Sentenced to Three Years Imprisonment

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported that Hebrew teacher and long-time refusenik Leonid Volvovsky of Gorky was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of allegedly "defaming the Soviet state and social system." The sentence was handed down after a five-day trial from which his family and friends were barred.

Among the evidence presented against the 43-year-old engineer was Leon Uris’ novel, Exodus, marking the second time in less than a year that the novel was presented as alleged "proof" of anti-Soviet behavior. It had also been included in evidentiary materials used in the case against Odessa Hebrew teacher Yakov Levin, who was convicted of the same charge last November. A woman who testified against Volvovsky claimed that he gave her the book and asked her to distribute it.

According to NCSJ executive director Jerry Goodman, the fact that Exodus — which contains nothing which can be construed as anti-Soviet — was submitted as major evidence in the case serves to illustrate the baseless nature of the charges against Volvovsky. The conviction was also based on testimony that Volvovsky "associated with Anatoly Shcharansky and losif Begun."

Volvovsky’s wife, Ludmilla, as well as his mother, daughter and losif Begun’s son, Boris, attempted to attend the trial. Shortly after it began, however, all but Volvovsky’s daughter were ordered to leave the courtroom. When his daughter protested the action, she was charged with "improper conduct" and forcibly removed from the room.

Volvovsky, who refused to accept the attorney appointed by the court, conducted his own defense.

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