TEL AVIV (Feb. 10)
Ben Gurion Airport authorities, preparing for the reception of Soviet Jewish aliya activist Anatoly Shcharansky, expected to be released tomorrow in an East-West prisoner exchange, are being besieged by scores of organizations which want to participate in the arrival ceremonies. The authorities hope to keep the reception low key because of Shcharansky’s health.
Shcharansky, arrested nine years ago, has served eight years of a 13-year sentence for allegedly spying for the U.S. According to reports here and abroad, he will be turned over to American authorities in West Berlin tomorrow. When he will arrive in Israel is not known.
But there is already confusion as to the whereabouts of his wife, Avital Shcharansky who lives in Israel and has been campaigning worldwide for her husband’s release for nearly a decade.
Friends of the family said today she is still in Israel and will not leave for West Berlin until she has definite word that her husband is about to be freed. Earlier reports here said she had left for Berlin. A report from Bonn said she was already there and journalists and television camera crews were trying to track her down in the divided city.
Shcharansky’s imminent release was reported a week ago. The reports said he would be included in a spy swap that will see several Western agents imprisoned in the East exchanged for Eastern bloc agents imprisoned in the West. Negotiations for the swap reportedly have been underway for the better part of a year and were expedited at the Geneva summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev last November.
THE ROUTE TO FREEDOM
The exchange is expected to take place at the Glienicke Bridge which links West Berlin with Potsdam in East Germany. Shcharansky and the other prisoners would then be flown to Frankfurt and from there the Jewish activist would fly to Israel, official sources here indicated today.
By the time he gets here he will have been reunited with his wife and they will step from the plane together. Israeli officials want to keep the welcoming ceremonies as small as possible in view of Shcharansky’s precarious state of health after his ordeal in Soviet prisons and forced labor camps. He is believed to be suffering from a variety of ailments brought on by the harsh conditions he had to endure.
There were also reports today that Shcharansky’s mother, Ida Milgrom, who lives in Moscow, will be allowed to leave the Soviet Union at a later date to join her son in Israel.